Published: Fri, August 11, 2017
Research | By Jo Caldwell

Disney, Unity face lawsuit over collection of personal info through kids games

Disney, Unity face lawsuit over collection of personal info through kids games

Some Disney smartphone apps collect kids' personal information without parents' permission and use that information to make money, a San Francisco woman and her child claim in a class-action lawsuit filed last week.

The lawsuit accuses Disney, Unity, Upsight, and Kochava of creating mobile apps that tracked, collected, and exported the personal information and online behavioral data of children. Though COPPA requires consent from parents for companies to gather personally identifiable information about children, defining that information - and the improper collection of it - becomes more hard as technology gets more sophisticated.

THE PERENNIALLY POPULAR Walt Disney Company is being sued by parents in California because of concerns that otherwise apparently children-friendly apps are actually data vacuums that know more about your kin than you do. If this is found to be the case, it is in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and Disney could be hit with hefty fines.

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. It was expanded in 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission to include geolocation markers and IP addresses. She discovered that her child's account was inundated by third-party advertising that are seemingly targeted at her age group.

The plaintiff is seeking an order to bar the defendants from tracking, collecting, and sharing data without their consent. Rushing wants Disney and the other companies to stop the tracking practices, destroy any personal data that they obtained thus far, and seeks "nominal and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial".

Disney has responded to the lawsuit by saying that the company has a "robust" COPPA compliance program.

"We maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families", Disney reportedly said. The statement reads, "The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles..." The company had registered over a million users for their online games without their knowing.

Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Post that it's inappropriate for Disney to be partnering with the software companies named in the suit. "Where's my Water? 2", one of the games included in the lawsuit, has been installed between 100 million and 500 million times on Android devices alone.

The lawsuit is blaming Disney and three other software companies: Unity, Upsight, and Kochava.

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