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Meeting someone online might have shed much of its stigma, but it hasn’t necessarily lost all its risks. Most people on dating sites aren’t entirely what they seem – 81% will lie on their profile – so perhaps it’s unsurprising that some users are getting wise to the white lies potential suitors tell. Helping them is Aste, a team of private investigators that will perform background checks on prospective matches. We explore the science behind why people don’t trust anyone they meet over the internet.

Around 15% of Americans have used a dating app, rising to over a quarter of 18- to-24 year-olds. But while most people probably expect a bit of fibbing from other users – especially since they’re likely doing some misleading themselves – some lies are far from innocent. When people want to do a background check on a potential date, Aste Investigators will take the details they have on a person – which often comprise just their name, age and location – and pull together all the available public information about the potential date, helping them make an informed decision about whether or not to meet.

People are getting wise to the white lies on people’s profiles People are getting wise to the white lies on people’s profiles
Krists Luhaers (2017) ©

Worryingly, 10% of sex offenders use online dating sites and some reports suggest that 42% of people on these platforms are already in relationships – so it's understandable that people are turning to services like Aste in the digital dating age. Some dating services are taking notice of these fears directly; Gatsby is an app that background checks everyone who signs up. It uses their profile information to search criminal and sex offender registries and bans anyone with a record. The app then automatically rescans members each month. While Gatsby’s system wouldn’t work in the UK, where criminal record disclosure relies on self-reporting, the service’s existence speaks to a shift in the way people approach online dating.

A 2016 study from the University of British Columbia found that smartphone users are less trusting of strangers, which – in the context of online dating, at least – is clearly a good thing. And given that over 86% of UK internet users say they’ve tried to mask or erase their digital footprint, it’s no wonder that people are relying on professionals to dig up any dirt on potential partners. They say that on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog – but maybe that’s about to change, thanks to Aste.

Katy Young is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a degree in American Studies and Film, and an MA in Journalism. Her interests include wild swimming, thinking of podcast ideas and singing in an all-female choir.


28 Jun 17
3 min read

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