|MeetMe CEO Geoff Cook (Photo: Charlie Sahner)|
By Charlie Sahner
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed suit against MeetMe, a popular social networking site that he claims "facilitates interactions among strangers, over inadequate privacy protections and unlawful publication of minors' profiles, photos, and location data, which can enable sexual predators and stalkers to target children as young as 13 years of age."
The civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Feb. 3 alleges that the New Hope-based MeetMe, Inc. is violating California's Unfair Competition Law by relying on legally invalid consent from minors between the ages of 13 and 17 to collect and improperly distribute their real-time geolocation and personal user information. The lawsuit additionally alleges that MeetMe fails to adequately disclose to users how their personal data is distributed.
Assersts Herrera,"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. MeetMe improperly collects personal information from young teens -- including their photos and real-time locations. It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks. Sadly, these risks aren't hypothetical. Dozens of children nationwide have already been victimized by predators who used MeetMe to coerce minors into meeting."
MeetMe CEO Geoff Cooke disagreed, saying in a statement, "While we cannot discuss pending litigation, we would like to comment on our existing safety practices generally.
"We care deeply about the safety of all of MeetMe's users. We review hundreds of thousands of photos posted to our services every day, and we compare the information provided by our users to a sex-offender registry. We employ a 24-7 team that responds to reports from our users and work closely with law enforcement when appropriate to assist in their investigations.
"MeetMe also provides a safety statement at the bottom of its website. MeetMe operates the site www.socialsafety.org as an educational resource for online safety, and provides links to it from its website and mobile apps. More details about MeetMe's safety programs can be found at www.meetmecorp.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/MeetMe_Safety.pdf"