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. Now Disney is facing a class action lawsuit claiming that 42 of its gaming apps aimed at children violate COPPA.
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. Even if consent is given, there are limitations on how the collected information can be used, extra protections must be in place and methods made available for parents to review the personal information collected.
According to American City Business Journals, Amanda Rushing discovered that no such parental consent was asked for when her child downloaded the app Disney Princess Palace Pets. Even so, Rushing believes the app collected personal information about her child and shared that information with third-parties including advertisers.
This led to a federal class action lawsuit being filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California by law firms Lieff Cabraser and Carney Bates & Pulliam against The Walt Disney Co., as well as software developers Upsight Inc., Unity Technologies SF and Kochava Inc.
According to The Verge, a total of 42 Disney apps are included in the lawsuit that apparently violate COPPA. It asks that Disney is forced through an injunction to stop tracking children without consent, but also that "appropriate relief" be awarded covering "actual and statutory damages and punitive damages, plus costs."
Disney responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
"Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families. The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in court."
This isn't the first time Disney is facing COPPA violation accusations. In 2013, the Disney-owned subsidiary Playdom violated COPPA rules by illegally collecting and disclosing personal information from hundreds of thousands of children. To settle the charges, Disney ended up paying $3 million.