Class action complaint alleges that Disney apps spy on children

Posted on: August 25th, 2017 by Steve Larson
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According to a complaint filed in California, the Walt Disney Co. secretly collects personal information on some of its youngest customers and shares that data illegally with advertisers without parental consent. The class-action suit 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 across the Internet, including those under the age of 13, in ways that facilitate “commercial exploitation.”

The plaintiffs argue that Disney and its partners violated COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law designed to protect the privacy of children on the Web. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, seeks an injunction barring the companies from collecting and disclosing the data without parental consent, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.

The lawsuit alleges that Disney allowed the software companies to embed trackers in apps such as “Disney Princess Palace Pets” and “Where’s My Water? 2.” Once installed, tracking software can then “exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes,” according to the suit.

Many of Disney’s gaming apps are immensely popular. According to the Google Play store, “Where’s my Water? 2” has been installed between 100 million and 500 million times; “Moana Island Life” has been installed between 1 million and 5 million times; and, in another measure of the company’s online success, “Disney Princess Palace Pets” has been reviewed more than 6,000 times by iOS users.