Lawsuit accuses Disney of tracking children online without appropriate consent

Lawsuit accuses Disney of tracking children online without appropriate consent

Amanda Rushing, the lawsuit's plaintiff, claims that Disney's various mobile gaming apps routinely collect smartphone data that can eventually be used to create profiles of children that advertisers can then exploit.

According to the lawsuit, the practice violates the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which prevents the collection of personal information of children under 13 without parental consent.

In effect the class-action suit claims that Disney allowed software companies to embed what are called "trackers" in mobile apps for kids such as "Disney Princess Palace Pets" and "Where's My Water? 2".

COPPA applies to children under the age of 13 and requires verifiable consent from a parent or guardian before personal information can be collected about a child.

The class action was brought by parents on behalf of their children and filed in the District Court in the Northern District of California San Francisco/Oakland division, and demands a trial by jury. Stolen information includes, but is not limited to: location, internet browsing history, and email addresses. "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.

This is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who believe that the Disney Corporation is betraying not only the spirit of its brand but also the letter of the law. It asks that Disney is forced through an injunction to stop tracking children without consent, but also that "appropriate relief" be awarded covering "actual and statutory damages and punitive damages, plus costs".

Disney, however, is nonplussed at the latest COPPA-related suit against them; the last major one in 2011 had them pay $3 million in damages on account of apps violating the Act developed by their subsidiary Playdom.

Disney issued a response to SC Media defending itself, saying the company has "a robust COPPA compliance program".

Disney has been accused of violating COPPA in the past as well. The lawsuit names the technology companies as Upsight, Unity Technologies, and Kochava as the makers of the software tools, and refers to them as defendants along with Disney. The statement reads, "The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles..."

The suit, filed by California woman Amanda Rushing, alleges that 42 of Disney's apps contain embedded software created to collect personal information and sell it to third parties for targeted advertisements.