On August 19, 2015, MeetMe, Inc. (MeetMe), a social networking website and mobile app, agreed to pay $200,000 and to change its privacy policies to settle a lawsuit alleging that MeetMe distributed teenagers’ geolocation and personal information, without consent, to predators, stalkers, and advertisers. The allegations were filed by the city of San Francisco, charging MeetMe with violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200.

MeetMe has over 122 million users and introduces users to other people who are using the website and mobile app by sharing users’ geolocation so that users can see other MeetMe users who are nearby. MeetMe also shares geolocation and personal information with third party vendors for targeted advertising. The Office of the City Attorney said

Our settlement includes groundbreaking steps to protect the safety and privacy of minor teenagers, just as we’d hoped. But MeetMe deserves credit for also seeing the opportunity to expand and better explain privacy protections for the benefit of all of its users, of all ages.

More specifically, MeetMe agreed to stop identifying minors’ locations beyond their city and state, and also agreed to limit sharing of minors’ proximity to other users to at least one mile away. MeetMe will also start providing “just in time notifications” to allow users more choice about data sharing and will simplify its privacy policy to be written at a 9th grade reading level.

This is a valuable lesson for all websites and mobile apps that are collecting data from their users; implement these provisions from the start and you may be able to avoid payouts like this.