OPW INTERVIEW - Nov 19 - The OnlineDatingAssociation.org.uk is based in the UK and was formed to help a group of dating companies discuss standards and speak as one voice to regulators. A good cause. George Kidd is the CEO, and we interviewed him about some sticky issues in Internet dating.
What is the greatest concern regarding online dating safety?
It is the distinction between a profile and a person; how we see and present ourselves online and when messaging and how we truly are as individuals. That is why a key ODA message is "Get to know the person, not the profile".
Do you think an online dating service has an obligation to provide background checks?
Yes and no. In Germany and the UK, third parties cannot access criminal records. Exemptions exist for those working in schools. Also many of those who commit some offence are first-time offenders: there is no previous database flagging past behaviour. We need, therefore, to look at what is practical in terms of prevention.
What are your thoughts on bots?
Operators should not create fake profiles to populate their service. I have heard the argument that it might be ok for some adult dating services to create profiles in order to balance up the gender ratio or to spice up a service that is about fantasy, not dating. I am not persuaded. Paying users surely don't want to chat with bots.
What are the existing laws surrounding financial scammers on online dating services?
Scamming is fraud, a criminal activity and prosecutable as such.
How should these crimes be prosecuted?
I am inclined to say better! But that is unfair on national and regional law enforcement agencies. Wrongdoers run their scams anywhere in the world. And, while there are some successful international co-operations, there are many more scams un-investigated for this reason.
Should the dating service be involved?
We are in a world of "best endeavours". In our case that might mean more real-time police sharing of reports of wrongdoing that allow operators to cut off any suspect behaviour. Somewhere in the mix sits financial institutions: "follow the money" or "block the payment" could make a huge difference.
There's an event on Friday 29th November you might want to check out. ODA are doing a session in the afternoon in London titled, "The impact of new wave dating services - are we now a form of social media?" .