Match.com will start checking its members against a national sex offenders registry.
The company expects to start the new policy in 60 to 90 days, Match.com told CNET this morning, and confirmed that the policy will affect both new and existing members.
Match.com has been considering the option for a while, but yesterday's decision was hastened as a result of the attention brought on by a lawsuit filed last week, spokesman Matthew Traub told the Associated Press yesterday.
A woman in California has sued Match.com, claiming she was sexually assaulted by a man that she met through the online dating service. Arguing that the woman had no idea her date had been convicted of sexual battery, the suit is seeking an injunction to stop anyone from joining Match.com until the company sets up a process to screen for convicted sex offenders.
Match.com president Mandy Ginsberg told the AP that the company had been hesitant to implement such screenings due to their "historical unreliability." But discussions with advisers over the past few days convinced Match.com that certain improvements have made sex offender registries more accurate, prompting the dating service to reverse its stance.
To conduct its screening, the company will tap into a national registry of sex offenders set up by the federal government. This registry pulls together information from the 50 states and other U.S. territories and lets users search for sex offenders by name as well as location.
Since the registry relies on coordinating data from a variety of different local sources, Match.com is cautioning that these types of checks can still be highly flawed.
"It is critical that this effort does not provide a false sense of security to our members," Match.com said in a statement sent to CNET. "With millions of members, and thousands of first dates a week, Match.com, like any other large community, cannot guarantee the actions of all its members. Match.com is a fantastic service, having changed the lives of millions of people through the relationships and marriages it has given rise to, but people have to exercise common sense and prudence with people they have just met, whether through an online dating service or any other means."
Match.com advises its members to read and follow the safety tips that it posts on its Web site to better protect themselves both online and offline.
Update at 11:10 a.m. PT: Added statement and information from Match.com.