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Thumbnail image for kamala.jpgCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris is touting today an agreement she says will help improve safety and security for people looking for love online.

Harris and online dating site companies eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks, which operates JDate and Christian Mingle, released a set of business guidelines by which the parties have agreed to abide. Harris praised the principles as "important consumer protections" for people participating in the sites. The release noted that 40 million Americans used online dating services in 2011.

"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," she said in the statement.

Under the agreement, which is posted here, the providers will publish safety tips and financial scam warnings online, maintain systems for reporting abuse or suspected criminal activity by users and make an effort to remove registered sex offenders and fake profiles from their sites. The providers will also work with the attorney general and a liaison from the office's new eCrime Unit to address concerns about criminal activity and identity theft issues.

Leaders from the companies said in the statement that many of the "best practices" outlined in the document were drawn from existing policies.

"These types of practices have been part of our commitment to member safety and education for many years," eHarmony CEO Jeremy Verba said in the statement. "We are proud to join Attorney General Harris, March.com and Spark Networks in setting an example for the rest of the online dating industry."

Harris spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said the attorney general's office initiated conversations with the providers after learning about a case in Southern California involving a woman who was allegedly raped by a man she met through an online dating service. After learning that the man had a criminal history, the woman started urging the site to increase its user screening practices.

While the principles released today are not legally binding by private parties, Gledhill said the attorney general hopes the good-faith agreement will spark more changes for other sites.

"We hope it becomes best practices for the industry," she said.



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