A new lawsuit filed in the United States claims that 42 Disney mobile apps collect the personal information of children without their parents’ consent.
The lawsuit was originally reported by The Washington Post on August 7. It’s a class action lawsuit filed by a San Francisco woman and her daughter.
The suit targets Disney and three other software companies that developed mobile apps in partnership with Disney – including Upsight, Kochava, and Unity. According to the lawsuit, Disney and the three developers violated the law by tracking user activity illegally:
The plaintiffs argue that Disney and its partners violated COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA is a federal law built to protect children from various tracking activities online. It restricts the ability for advertisers to sell personal information about a child online, for example.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, seeks an injunction that prevents the named companies – including Disney and the three software developers – from collecting and disclosing the data without parental consent, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.
How Did Disney’s Alleged Tracking Software Work?
We have laws in place to protect children from tracking. This is what prevents mobile apps from selling a child’s personal information to advertisers, SMS tracking children, or monitoring a child’s behavior in other ways.
In any case, the suit claims that Disney allowed the software companies mentioned above to embed trackers in various Disney apps, including Disney Princess Palace Pets and Where’s My Water? 2.
Once the apps were installed, the trackers, according to the lawsuit, would “exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes.”
Disney’s Response to Mobile Tracking Allegations
Disney has responded by claiming the lawsuit is misguided, and that the company will defend the lawsuit in court:
“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 earlier in August, as reported by The Washington Post.
“The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court.”
Disney, however, has faced lawsuits over alleged COPPA violations in the past. In 2011, the FTC penalized a subsidiary of Disney called Playdom, after that company was found tracking 1.2 million users – mostly children – while playing online games.
In that previous suite, the FTC alleged that Disney collected email addresses and ages of the children, then allowed them to volunteer additional information like their full names, instant messenger handles, and physical location to supplement their online profile.
A total of 42 apps are reportedly affected by this latest tracking allegation. Some of these apps are immensely popular. Where’s My Water? 2, for example, has been downloaded from the Google Play Store more than 100 million times.
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