Lawsuit claims Disney illegally collected data in kids apps

Disney in Court for Allegedly Snooping on Kids

The plaintiff said that she was unaware that data was being collected on her child as she played Disney Princess Palace Pets, and claims that the data was then sold to third parties for targeted advertising.

A California woman is bringing a class action lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company, alleging that a large number of the company's apps aimed at children have been illegally tracking users and selling data to advertisers. "Disney never obtained verifiable parental consent to collect, use, or disclose her child's personal information".

The complaint [PDF] also names Disney Enterprises, Disney Electronic Content, Upsight, Unity Technologies, and Kochava as defendants, with the latter three companies responsible for supplying SDKs for Disney's apps. The class action lawsuit will represent users from 35 states. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent Disney from "commercial exploitation", and asks for damages and legal fees. "For instance, little girls are likely to be massive fans of the "#Disney Princess" franchise, and they might probably indulge their fandom through playing a variety of game apps that the House of Mouse has put out.

"Children are especially vulnerable to online tracking and the resulting behavioral advertising", the complaint reads. Even if consent is given, there are limitations on how the collected information can be used, extra protections must be in place, and methods made available for parents to review the personal information collected.

Disney appears confident this time around. The federal law, passed in 1998, is created to protect children's privacy when they use the internet.

"Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families", the company said in a statement Monday. Under COPPA, companies are required to gain permission from parents before collecting and selling personal information from children. Though COPPA requires consent from parents for companies to gather personally identifiable information about children, defining that information - and the improper collection of it - becomes more hard as technology gets more sophisticated.

"The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court", the company stated.

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