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California Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Disney Apps are Trying to Spy on Kids

By Brian Chase on August 14, 2017 - No comments

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A federal class action lawsuit filed in California is alleging that The Walt Disney Company is secretly collecting personal information of children and sharing the data illegally with advertisers without parental consent. According to a news report in The Washington Post, the class action lawsuit targets Disney and three other software companies – Upsight, Unity and Kochava – alleging that the mobile apps they built together violate the law by gathering insights about app users including those under the age of 13.

The class action suit, filed on behalf of a San Francisco woman and her child, seeks to represent consumers in 35 states. It alleges that such methods facilitate “commercial exploitation” of these young users. The plaintiffs argue that Disney and its partners violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which is a federal law meant to protect the privacy of children online. The lawsuit essentially seeks an injunction prohibiting the companies from collecting and disclosing the data without parental consent as well as punitive damages and legal fees.

Understanding Privacy Violations

According to the lawsuit, Disney allowed the software companies to embed trackers in apps such as “Where’s My Water? 2” and “Disney Princess Palace Pets.” Once the apps are installed, tracking software can extract the information off the smart device and use it for commercial purposes. Disney has said the lawsuit is “misguided” and that it intends to defend it in court.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires online services that target users under age 13 should display a privacy policy that is easy to read and comprehend. The policy should clearly say what type of information is being collected and what the service might do with that data. Directions with regard to how parents can give their consent should also be included under the law.

Protecting Children’s Information

Disney has faced similar allegations in 2011 when Playdom (a subsidiary) registered about 1.2 million users, mostly children, for online games. The FTC filed a lawsuit stating Disney collected children’s email addresses and ages, allowing them to volunteer information such as full names, instant messenger handles and physical locations as part of their online profiles. Google Play numbers show some of the Disney games are installed millions of times.

The Internet is a great resource for adults and children. However, it can present these types of dangers as well. Children should be taught never to give out personal information such as name, age, address, phone number or social security number. They should also be taught not to open attachments from anyone. They should use passwords that are age and gender neutral. Use a firewall program, which restricts the flow into and out of a computer connected to a network. This could help minimize the threat of intrusion. As California class action lawyers, we hope this lawsuit helps put better safeguards in place to protect children’s personal information.

Posted in: Class Action

About the Author: Brian Chase

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