However, Vest's many critics in the industry say he is acting mostly out of self-interest.They contend that True.com's screening method - running names through state databases of criminal records is incomplete and too easily thwarted, potentially creating a false sense of security for customers."It's so superficial that it's worthless," said Braden Cox, policy counsel with Net Choice, a coalition of e-commerce companies that includes Yahoo, AOL and other major players in online dating.The company sued a felon who slipped through the background-check process. One 56-year-old Texas woman discovered how dangerous it can be to try to navigate online dating without a security filter.Herb Vest, chief executive of True.com, said he won't rule out suing a married person who gets onto the site, either."It's emotional harm. She dated a man she met on Yahoo Personals for eight months before a simple Google search revealed he was convicted of murder and insurance fraud."It was really very scary," said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.Singles now draw on a growing arsenal of security and research tools -- from services that verify identity and background to companies that provide temporary phone numbers as a barrier to stalkers.Sites like Dont Date Him allow scorned lovers to warn others away from their bad dates.As Valentine's Day approaches, all is not lovey-dovey in the high-stakes online dating industry.
A Philadelphia man, Jeffrey Marsalis, was accused of raping several women he met through Match.com, and was sentenced in October to at least 10 years in prison."It's very important to do a background check whenever you go out with someone, even if you have to pay" for it, she said."You really cannot be too safe."But marketing security and screening features on dating sites can cut both ways for the business.Last month, New Jersey became the first state to enact a law requiring the sites to disclose whether they perform background checks.
- the only large online dating service that already does such screenings - was elated by its successful lobbying and hopes other states will follow suit."The online dating industry tends to get a real bad rap, because of criminal activity," said True.com's founder and chief executive, Herb Vest.
More broadly, some worry that New Jersey's action will push other states to regulate the online dating industry, creating a hodgepodge of laws that will drive up operating costs and force some companies out of business.