Disney Faces Accusations Of Spying On Kids Through Gaming Apps

Photo: Erin Yamagata.
Family-friendly Disney is facing a class-action lawsuit claiming that the media giant is violating federal privacy laws. According to The Verge, San Francisco resident Amanda Rushing claims that Disney, along with software companies Upsight, Unity, and Kochava, is collecting and selling personal information from children through 42 different games and selling it to advertisers without asking for parents' permission or consent.
Rushing says that her daughter, L.L., was playing a game called Disney Princess Palace Pets, which was collecting data without asking for permission. Rushing's legal team at Lieff Cabraser and Carney Bates & Pulliam claims that the activity goes against the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was passed in congress back in 1999 and requires any online entity to ask for parental permission for data collection when users are under age 13. In 2013, COPPA was updated to include geolocation markers and IP addresses and extended to third-party advertisers, too. Rushing is looking for Disney to stop the alleged data collection and seeks "appropriate relief, including actual and statutory damages and punitive damages."
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Disney responded to the accusations by saying that Rushing's claims misinterpret COPPA's rules and regulations. It claims to be completely compliant with COPPA as it stands.
"Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families," a statement from the company reads. "The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in court."
The Verge adds that back in 2011, Disney faced similar accusations. Playdom, a subsidiary of Disney, paid a $3 million penalty after the FTC found that the company was gathering and disclosing information from "hundreds of thousands of children under age 13."
"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 W. Sobol, a Lieff Cabraser partner, 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."
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