Dating Site MeetMe Sued Over Terrible Privacy Policies

If your teen has reached dating age, you may have already lightened up on how diligently you supervise her online activities.  In the case of MeetMe, the casual dating website and app, it may be a good idea to reconsider that position.

What is MeetMe? According to the company’s website:

MeetMe is, simply put, where friends meet! MeetMe uses an array of social discovery applications in order to connect you to our incredible and friendly members, making us the best place to make friends and meet new people near you!

Dennis Herrera, the City Attorney for San Francisco, has serious issues with the site’s privacy policies and protections for minors. He announced this week that he will be filing suit against MeetMe, in an attempt to require the company to change its policies. According to a press release issued by the City:

“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,” said Herrera.  “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.”

Approximately 25% of MeetMe’s registered users are under the age of 18, and dozens of minors nationwide have been approached via MeetMe by sexual predators.

According to a related article at Motherboard, MeetMe’s Privacy Policy makes it almost impossible for young users to appropriately protect themselves. Sarah Eisenberg, lead counsel for the City Attorney’s Office, commented:

MeetMe’s privacy policy and disclosures are “particularly bad” and are “very difficult for someone with a college education to understand.” That was after conducting several professional tests of the reading level required to understand the legal documents all the site’s users agree to. That means teenagers who frequent the site almost never understand the potential consequences of revealing sensitive information such as photos and geo-location to complete strangers—some of whom could be sexual predators and stalkers.

Parents need to understand that any social media site may not place the well-being of its users at the top of its list of considerations in doing what it does. Minors probably shouldn’t be using sites such as MeetMe in the first place, since the core purpose of the site is to connect users with strangers, and every user may be someone other than who they claim to be. Last time I checked, parents are supposed to be in the business of protecting minors from strangers, not facilitating meeting them.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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