Complaint says Disney apps are tracking children

Posted at 6:57 PM, Aug 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-07 10:15:06-04

Disney has dozens of apps for kids across multiple platforms, but some of those apps might lead to a class-action lawsuit. 

On Thursday, a concerned parent filed a complaint against the company for tracking kids' personal information and selling it to third parties. The specific app in question is "Disney Princess Palace Pets," but the complaint also says other Disney games, including "Dodo Pop" and "Club Penguin Island," are tracking children as well.

The legal complaint alleges Disney is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule — or COPPA — which bans the collection of children's personal information without parental consent.

Disney has gotten in trouble over COPPA before. In 2011, company subsidiary Playdom Inc. — which developed online multiplayer games like "PonyStars" and "My Diva Doll" — was accused of collecting and disclosing the personal information of children. Between 2006 and 2010, "PonyStars" alone had over 800,000 users.

Playdom paid a $3 million civil penalty to settle the charges, but the trouble didn't stop there. 

In 2013, the Center for Digital Democracy accused Disney's of similar COPPA violations.

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This problem of online privacy and information mining goes beyond Disney. 

Researchers at Virginia Tech screened over 100,000 apps on the Google Play marketplace. They found that thousands of them communicate with each other and share personal information mined from users. 

One of the researchers said, "App security is a little like the Wild West right now with few regulations."

A Disney spokesperson issued 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.”

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