Disney Faces Accusations Of Spying On Kids Through Gaming Apps

Pablo Tucker
August 11, 2017

Rushing claims that her daughter had her data tracked and sold while playing the "Disney Princess Palace Pets" app.

The case is based on her allegation that the companies in question had developed apps and games for mobile devices that covertly collect private information on their users, mostly children.

The complaint alleges that the alleged data collection violates a California privacy law as well as the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

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. "As children's cognitive abilities still are developing, they have limited understanding or awareness of sophisticated advertising and therefore are less likely than adults to distinguish between the actual content of online gaming apps and the advertising content that is targeted to them alongside it".

The lawsuit, says that Disney and three other companies it worked with (Upsight, Unity, and Kochava) created apps that spy on users - primarily children - gathering information which is then shared with advertisers. The Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998 and took effect in April 2000. The privacy policy must outline the kind of information being gathered and what the service might do with the data. The policy should also include instructions on how parents can give their consent.

Because this is to do with kids and apps we sort of assumed that this would be about privacy, and it is. It was claimed that Disney collected the children's email addresses and ages, and encouraged them to volunteer information such as their names, instant messenger ID's as well as geolocation information as part of their online profiles.

We dread to think how low ideas have to be plumbed by the time you have 45 child-friendly games in your roster, but we imagine that most of the games could follow this naming convention: "temple/castle/sea+clone/robot/princess/space pirate+candy/rocks/jewels+run/catch/crush", with a few Disney specifics thrown in for good measure and a number at the end so you can tell them apart. To settle the charges, Disney ended up paying $3 million.

However, the problem that many parents and regulatory authorities face is that Disney is a behemoth. "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". She has a background in information technology and has worked with various software companies and tech startups on their public relations and communications initiatives.

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