Disney look to have once again got into some legal issues with the use of their apps and games, as new lawsuit claims that Disney have been collecting data for the purpose of future “commercial exploitation”, which violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that aims to protect children’s online privacy.
According to a report by Gizmodo, The complaint, naming as plaintiff Amanda Rushing and her child, along with others similarly situated, was filed Thursday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. One of the apps mentioned includes “Disney Princess Palace Pets” and the lawsuit also names some other ad tech companies, Upsight, Unity, and Kochava which were also accused in the complaint as being responsible for embedding software in Disney’s games.
This data is apparently being sold to third-party party companies for the purpose of tracking individual children’s behavior “across multiple apps and devices.”
Disney have fallen foul of this law before, when Disney violated COPPA in 2011 when their “Playdom Inc” paid a penalty for allegedly collecting and disclosing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of children without parental consent.
The games have been collecting personal information of children by tracking their online behavior to “facilitate behavioral advertising or marketing analysis.” These “robust online profiles” include details such as a child’s geographical location, browsing history, and app usage.
The lawsuit also says that Disney has failed to obtain “verifiable” parental consent as she “never knew,” the complaint says, that Disney “collected, disclosed, or used her child’s personal information” because Disney and its ad tech partners did not provide “any of the required disclosures,” and furthermore “never sought verifiable parental consent” because it never actually provided a mechanism through which consent could be provided.
“As a company long-engaged in the practice of engaging—and profiting from—children, Disney needs to make sure its games and apps comply with the law,” Michael Sobol, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement. “They and the companies they work with always have to obtain verifiable parental consent before extracting kids’ data from their mobile devices when kids play Disney’s mobile apps.”
Disney does state that their games contain Ads on both Google Play and the Apple Store, there are also large “terms and conditions” listed on these pages and can usually be found within the settings of the apps. Most of which, the majority of users never read and agree to, by downloading and playing the game. This could be an interesting development, especially when some games are linked to social media accounts like GameCenter or Facebook.
UPDATE : Disney have issued a statement :
“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 complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court.”