Mother sues Disney claiming it spies on children through apps

Disney mobile game lawsuit filed over data collection from children

The class-action complaint, filed late last week by Amanda Rushing and her child, identified as "L.L.", alleges that Disney allowed outside companies to embed code that tracked app users across different websites and services.

Children need protecting when they are online, which is why since April 21, 2000 the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) has been in effect.

Disney has been hit with a privacy lawsuit alleging that mobile apps like "Princess Palace Pets" track young children in order to enable targeted advertising.

The law requires companies making apps aimed at children below the age of 13 to obtain their parents' consent before giving their personal information.

That's the allegation in a new lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California this week by the law firms Lieff Cabraser and Carney Bates & Pulliam. According to the lawsuit, Disney and three software companies - Upsight, Unity, and Kochava - created mobile apps targeting children that contained embedded spying software which facilitates "commercial exploitation". "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. She discovered that her child's account was inundated by third-party advertising that are seemingly targeted at her age group. It was expanded in 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission to include geolocation markers and IP addresses.

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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.

The filing states that "Children are especially vulnerable to online tracking and the resulting behavioral advertising, "Disney never obtained verifiable parental consent to collect, use, or disclose [a] child's personal information".

In a statement issued on August 7, Disney pushed back against the allegations and indicated that it is prepared to defend itself.

Disney has responded to this claim a few days ago via the Washington Post, stating that is has a robust COPPA compliance policy. "The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court".

Upsight, Unity and Kochava have not commented on the lawsuit. "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".