UK dating site may be template for online fraud detection

Existing practises by one UK dating advice site may hold the key to helping Google cut down on the amount of ‘bad actor’ ads it has slipping through its nets every month, specifically in this report, appertaining to human trafficking.

AdWords, probably the most successful online advertising method on the Internet, has been dogged with advertisements for all manner of dodgy products in the past, pharmaceutical aids for improved sexual performance being one of the first categories that spring to mind. A persistent pest they are at least, a scam they are at worst and for the in between, there is little way to prove that the product works or doesn’t and absolutely no way of getting your money back if they categorically don’t.

But that type of nuisance is small fry compared to a much bigger issue being championed once again by NAHVTA’s Philip J. Cenedella. The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates is calling on Google, even writing to Larry Page directly, to stop all online dating ads that may be a front for human trafficking.

Google, according to one recent report, spends millions every year policing just such practises but, because of the volume, literally billions of ads every year that appear alongside blogs, search engine results and even next to your message in a Gmail inbox (how intrusive is that?) as Adsense advertisements to generate income for the blog-master, it is increasingly difficult to catch ’em all.

However, Cenedella will not be happy until there is “0.0%” of human trafficking in dating site ads displayed using the AdWords/AdSense medium, however unrealistic that may be. But he’s not afraid of a scrap this one; he’s took on some big names in the virtual and real world in his efforts to stop human trafficking in all its guises. In 2009 it was the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, a year later Craigslist and last year, and still in progress, was a personal battle against Backpage. This year he has turned his attention to take on the huge resources that are cyberspace’s giant organisations and responsible for the majority of adverts we see in our browsers, namely Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing.

Back to the original example, Google requires all pharmacy ads to go through both manual and algorithmic vetting before being shown – this may be through a third party and certainly draws from the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practise Sites database available in the US. But for online dating, there is no such registrar, at least across The Pond.

In the UK, we have the Association of British Introduction Agencies that allows you to use their site and find a dating site near you that has been run through rigorous checks and must meet exacting standards of Internet safety before it can appear alongside other dating sites that have qualified similarly.

However, there has been some doubt raised about the impracticability of operating such a system on such a large scale. Also, David Evans of OnlineDatingPost.com reveals that these criminals are ‘like quick-silver’. The moment they know you’re onto them, they disband, disappear and come back braver and uglier than ever.

In the meantime, it seems Cenedella will just have to be patient as Google will only bow to the authorities and has been working closely with them already in an attempt to banish such practises. There is no easy solution and, as much as human traffic is associated with dating sites, it is not the biggest problem this industry faces in criminality; whilst fighting to keep fraudsters off our pages is obviously a good thing, finding extra man hours and budget to cope with spurious ads on free dating sites will be huge costs that many webmasters have not budgeted for.

Cenedella makes an absolutely fair point about the dating ads, but, rather than just point the finger, it would be good to hear him come up with a solution. We wait with bated breath.

When does investigating your potential date become stalking?

Given that it is not yet law for all dating sites to check the history of its membership, how do you check out the past of a potential partner? If, indeed, you do at all. If not, at least according to one report, you are very much in the minority.

Okay, online dating is now a socially acceptable way of meeting your partner. The uninhibited growth of social media and ‘respectable’ branding and advertising campaigns have seen to that. But that doesn’t stop the glorious picture of Heidi, the 22-year old lab assistant from London, turning out to be randy Roger from Reading, does it? As such, almost sixty percent of singles who have been approached to go real life dating via their online platform use other Internet sites to vet their potential partner before agreeing to meet up with them.

Social media platforms used to vet potential partners

Stalking your ex on the facebook is nothing new. Many of us have done it and lived to regret it. You see them on a smiley photo with their new beau, you get too closely acquainted with the ever-faithful Miss S. Artois or favourite Pinot Grigio and end up having a one-night stand with a total minger whose name you instantly forget and all just to ‘show them’ you’re not hurting. Yeah, right, well done! Then you’ve got to rid yourself of said minger – disaster!

However, in the absence of a legal prerequisite, singles on dating sites are doing their own investigating using Google, LinkedIn and facebook to corroborate dating site information before acquiescing a date.

On Jdate, a recent survey of 500 members revealed that, of the six in ten who trawl the ‘Net for added safety, more than a quarter used facebook only and one eighth only Googled their potential beau, but a further 20 percent used a combination of sources, such as the professional network, LinkedIn, thrown in just to be sure.

One word of caution. As much as we condone this type of activity, that first date is your first real chance to get to know the person you’ve met online, once you’ve satisfied yourself that Heidi definitely isn’t randy Roger, perhaps because her moustache is a different colour, I don’t know. But leave some of the mystery to unfold on your date(s). Do not, under any circumstances, over-investigate your subject.

If you sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met, it will sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met and you may just come across as slightly unhinged or stalker-ish. All that time and effort in research and you’ve scared them off a second date. So, yes, be sure; but also, leave the door ajar for a little mystery to seep through, a bit at a time, not fling open Pandora’s box like, well, like Pandora did. You may not be able to take it all in at once and still retain all of your noodles.

Seal of approval for dating site writers

A lot of ‘articles’ that we read in cyberspace that supposedly contain information about online dating are nothing but cannon-fodder for Google. Search-engine friendly they may be; next winner of the crystal clear writing award, I think not. There are one or two exceptional writers out there in dating land whose posts I always take the time out to read, showcasing their opinions on global dating sites, Kelly Seal being one such writer who never fails to deliver fresh content from a different perspective and puts a bit of the writer into the prose and it shows. It’s refreshing.  If ever there was a solid argument for Web 2.0, eradicating spammers, scammers and spinners has got to be it.

However, until that day arrives, I accept my lot that the feeds upon which I base some of the more nitty-gritty aspects of online dating, such as figures, statistics and research (yeah, I know: boring, but often relevant), I have to wade through copious amounts of poorly scribed English, punctuation, tense and spelling errors before I actually decide that there were “78% of dating site members populating on the forums”, and not “copulating on the forums,” as stated – I nearly cut my fingers with credit card plastic to sign up before I realised the err in spelling on that occasion, I can tell you.

However, to the point of this little aside article, other than to acknowledge the wonderful Kelly Seal who, if Google’s new parameters truly are “Content is king” when it comes to judging page rank (although, on the evidence of the above, I’m yet to be convinced that they have got the algorithm for filtering out spun material bang on, yet), will one day be my queen as we lay waste and look out upon the devastation we have caused before us, when it comes to re-writing the rules about writing dating site content, I did come across a feed earlier this week by a writer who, although not of native English tongue, had a good enough grasp of the concept to make a few very valid points about men on dating sites, their attitudes towards the fairer sex and sex itself, and women’s perceptions of said males.

So, in my next article, I will pay homage to said writer who, rather than just use article spin software did try to re-write those words in as close as a version as they could muster to the mother tongue of our nation and made a fair stab at it, to boot.

If you’re lucky enough to have been paid this side of the end of the month, I guess you’ll be out meeting guys and gals who you’ve been in contact with on your dating site during these last long, dark teatimes of the soul since last we were paid – doesn’t it seem like an age? For all the rest of you out there in dating land, see you here tomorrow!