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Lawsuit Claims That Disney's Apps Are Spying On Kids

Lawsuit Claims That Disney's Apps Are Spying On Kids

A federal class action lawsuit has taken form in California, alleging that a number of apps and games owned by the Walt Disney Company violate privacy protection laws and illegally collect the personal information of children. 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.

She said the company is doing it through online apps, including its Princess Palace Pets Game.

That's according to a federal lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. 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.

"Children's personal information is captured from them, as is information of their online behavior, which is then sold to third parties who track multiple data points associated with a personal identifier, analyzed with the sophisticated algorithms of big data to create a user profile, and then used to serve behavioral advertising to children whose profile fits a set of demographic and behavioral traits", the complaint said in explaining the general process. As of a 2013 revision, that personal information includes location markers and IP addresses. "For instance, little girls are likely to be massive fans of the "#Disney Princess" franchise, and they might probably indulge their fandom through playing a variety of game apps that the House of Mouse has put out.

The plaintiff is looking for an injunction blocking Disney from tracking and sharing data without parental consent, alongside "appropriate relief, including actual and statutory damages and punitive damages" plus costs.

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Disney has responded to the lawsuit by saying that the company has a "robust" COPPA compliance program. "The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court".

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

Disney has faced alleged COPPA violations in the past.

The Washington Post reports about the Class Action suit which relates to 42 Disney apps.

The suit, filed by California woman Amanda Rushing, alleges that 42 of Disney's apps contain embedded software created to collect personal information and sell it to third parties for targeted advertisements.