Internet Law

MeetMe has inadequate privacy protections for minors, city attorney alleges in lawsuit

The MeetMe social networking site is facing a lawsuit that claims it has inadequate privacy protections, putting minors at risk of targeting by sexual predators.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit on Monday, report the San Francisco Examiner, Bay City News Service and the Los Angeles Times. The suit (PDF) claims the company violates state unfair completion law by relying on legally invalid consent from minors.

“MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company’s irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it,” Herrera says in a press release.

MeetMe helps users meet new people online and in person. According to the suit, MeetMe’s default settings collect geolocation information so users can meet others in the same age group who are nearby and vendors can target their advertising. Ages are self-reported and not verified, so those who are over 18 can search for teens, the suit says.

The average teen who signs up for MeetMe would not understand that personal information is being shared in this way, the suit says. “Accordingly, any ‘consent’ that such a teenager may give via MeetMe’s ‘clickwrap agreement’ or ‘browsewrap agreement’ is invalid,” the suit claims.

MeetMe CEO Geoff Cook said in a statement that he can’t comment on pending litigation, but the company cares deeply about its users. He said the company compares information from its users with a sex-offender registry and works closely with law enforcement when appropriate.

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