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San Francisco says MonkeyParking app is illegal, app claims ‘free speech’

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They fought the law… and we’ll see what the law’s going to do about it. 

Parking app MonkeyParking is gearing up for battle against the City of San Francisco over what the company says is an obvious violation of free speech. MonkeyParking claims that its app (which lets users announce when they will be abandoning a desirable public parking space and then collect cash when another user of the app takes that spot) only allows users to sell information and is not violating any laws.

The app works by prompting you to enter your location whenever you occupy a public parking spot. Other users can then offer you money to leave the spot, while you wait for the highest bidder. Once you leave your spot and allow the chosen bidder to slide in, the payment is transferred to your bank account.

If this sounds a little bit like an auction for what is essentially a piece of public property, that’s because it totally is and why it’s in trouble with the city of San Francisco. The city government hit MonkeyParking with a cease and desist, demanding that the app be shut down immediately, but the company isn’t budging.

“Users have the opportunity to be paid for the information communicated based on whether or not the communication successfully identifies a parking spot that is available,” a post on MonkeyParking’s official site reads. “MP is not in the business of selling or auctioning parking spots.”

The company’s argument that all its users are selling is information is a tough argument to make. The reality is that money only changes hands if a parking spot does the same, making the whole “buying and selling of parking spots” a very legitimate concern for the city.

MonkeyParking also notes on its site that it has contacted legal counsel and is confident it will come out on top of any legal proceedings, should they occur.

Photo via MattHurst/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mike Wehner

Mike Wehner

Mike Wehner is a former tech editor for the Daily Dot who now writes for BGR. His work has appeared everywhere from Yahoo to CNN, and there’s a good chance his Apple Watch is dead right now.