Question: Has your mobile phone helped you with dating?
When I was single, which wasn’t that long ago, technology and romance intersected exactly two times in my life, in the form of online dating. Two was plenty, as these encounters were real clunkers. One guy was an unemployed slacker with bad breath and teef (yes, that’s not a typo, and no, it wasn’t evident from his photo); the other fella was a buttoned-up type who looked like my Uncle Mike. (Blech. Who wants to date a family member?)

Sure, my experiences were brief yet disastrous, but others have fared much better. In fact, some of my friends met their spouses on Match or eHarmony. So it may have taken a while for internet dating sites to lose their stigma, but now it’s become a real option for people who are looking for love. (Or a quick hook-up. Yeah, Nerve, I’m talking about you.)

Now cell phones are in the game. These days, there are plenty of social apps and location-aware programs that make finding new people easy and accessible. But there seems to be a tangent breed of dating apps that’s taking a strange — and nosy — turn.




The Date Check mobile app
I just got a press release about a new dating application from Intelius. The company describes itself thusly: “a leading icommerce company that empowers consumers and businesses with information to make intelligent decisions about personal safety and security.” So what’s a company like this doing peddling a dating app? Well, the key word here is “security.”

Here’s the angle: Date Check hooks into the company’s online background check service. The app allows anyone to dig up information on new romantic prospects instantly using just a name or cell phone number.

So imagine meeting someone cute at Starbuck’s or the library. You introduce yourselves, chat, then excuse yourself to the bathroom. While there, you dig up info like age or address (A commuter from Queens? Ugh, too far!), or hit up details like education or employment history. Now you can decide whether that line about an Ivy League education (which was actually a year at community college) is an adorable attempt at impressing you or a bald-faced lie worthy of rejection. All this, in under a few minutes of meeting the person.

Already, I am both disgusted and intrigued by this.


"Look up before you hook up."
Seriously, that’s the official tagline for Date Check. And they’re not kidding. 

In addition to the features above, it has search functions called Compatibility (birth date/astrological info), Living Situation (names/ages of family or roommates living at subject's address), Net Worth (financial assets or property ownership) and Sleaze Detector (criminal records). Well, that’s quite a list. Sort of takes the old “Googling a crush” activity and cranks it up a few notches.

I suppose having a way to identify sketchy or potentially dangerous people ahead of time makes sense. But in the hands of said sketchy people, this app makes identifying prey way easier too. Then there are the garden-variety stalkers, gold-diggers, crazy ex’s, etc… who might use this to enable their wacked-out pursuits.

Those are the worst-case scenarios. But even in its most mundane use — with one “normal” person (whatever that means) checking out another “normal” person — I wonder if apps like this suck the romance right out of the courtship process. Or maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe there’s no place for words like “discovery,” “exploration” and “mystery” these days, when it seems everyone’s dishing every detail of their lives via, YouTube, Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, Twitter, blogs, etc…

While I lament over the death of romance, I also realize that I’m about to contradict myself: If I’d known about Mr. Teef and the Uncle Mike look-alike ahead of time, I could’ve saved time for myself and them.

So yeah, I’m torn. I find this both practical and kind of creepy. What do you all think? Are mobile background checks smart and useful, or are they a terrible idea? And would you ever use this? Better yet, what would you do if you caught someone using this to find dirt on you? Weigh in below.



By the way: The free Date Check mobile for iPhone will be available soon in the App Store, so if you’re interested, it won’t be long before you can get your “nosy” on. Android and Blackberry versions are slated for release in October.

For a look at the Date Check demo reel, click here.




UPDATE:
Intelius has created some cheesy webisodes featuring the Date Check app. Clearly, they’re targeting a female customer base, but the ladies in these vids make me want to chuck a cell phone at them. Inane in the extreme. Click through for examples of how NOT to “relate” to the female experience.

Intelius Date Check Mr. Right Webisode


Intelius Date Check Mr. Wrong Webisode


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