Federal Lawsuit Claims Disney App Is Illegally Collecting Data On Children

If there’s a Disney app on your phone or your kids’ tablet, you might want to consider deleting it.

Those games like “Disney Princess Palace Pets” are secretly collecting the personal data on your young ones.

That’s the claim in a class-action lawsuit filed against the Disney company. They contend that “Princess Palace Pets” is just one of 43 Disney apps that embed tracking software that can “exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes.”

The main plaintiff, Amanda Rushing, is filing on behalf of herself and all parents who have played the Disney mobile games, which the suit claims is a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The apps, available on both Apple and Android devices, fail to ask parental permission before they assign unique identifiers to track users’ location, what they do and where they go – sending all that information to Disney. They can build a “robust online profile” of your child, simply by following them around, the suit contends.

The ability to serve behavioral advertisements to a specific user no longer turns upon obtaining the kinds of data with which most consumers are familiar (email addresses, etc), but instead on the surreptitious collection of persistent identifiers, which are used in conjunction with other data points to build robust online profiles.

The specific intent of COPPA was to prevent exactly that – tracking children. The legislation was enacted in 1999 with the express goal of protecting your kids’ privacy while they’re online. It prohibits developers of kids’ apps – or any third parties working with the apps – from obtaining the personal information of children 12 and younger without first obtaining verifiable parental consent. Sophos.com reports:

App developers don’t build their own ad-tracking code; rather, they typically add a third party’s toolkit or library to their code to create, collect and track persistent identifiers that will then be sold to an advertising network or data aggregator.

Other developers will sell additional data on the same child to an advertising network, which will then have that much more data on the child and be able to craft targeted ads ever more precisely. Data on the child can be bought and sold as multiple ad networks swap databases, creating what the suit describes as …”an increasingly sophisticated and merchantable profile of how, when, and why a child uses her mobile device, along with all of the demographic and psychographic inferences that can be drawn therefrom.”

This isn’t the first time Disney’s run afoul of the COPPA. Back in 2011, the Federal Trade Commission fined a Disney subsidiary $3 million after it registered 1.2 million users – mostly kids – for online games without parental consent.

Here is a full list of the games involved in the complaint that you might want to consider deleting:

  • AvengersNet
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Perfect Match
  • Cars Lightening League
  • Club Penguin Island
  • Color by Disney
  • Disney Color and Play
  • Disney Crossy Road
  • Disney Dream Treats
  • Disney Emoji Blitz
  • Disney Gif
  • Disney Jigsaw Puzzle!
  • Disney LOL
  • Disney Princess: Story Theater
  • Disney Store Become
  • Disney Story Central
  • Disney’s Magic Timer by Oral-B
  • Disney Princess: Charmed Adventures
  • Dodo Pop
  • Disney Build It Frozen
  • DuckTales: Remastered
  • Frozen Free Fall
  • Frozen Free Fall: Icy Shot
  • Good Dinosaur Storybook Deluxe
  • Inside Out Thought Bubbles
  • Maleficent Free Fall
  • Miles from Tomorrowland: Missions
  • Moana Island Life
  • Olaf’s Adventures
  • Palace Pets in Whisker Haven
  • Sofia the First Color and Play
  • Sofia the First Secret Library
  • Star Wars: Puzzle DroidsTM
  • Star WarsTM: Commander
  • Temple Run: Oz
  • Temple Run: Brave
  • The Lion Guard
  • Toy Story: Story Theater
  • Where’s My Water?
  • Where’s My Mickey?
  • Where’s My Water? 2
  • Where’s My Water? Lite/Where’s My Water? Free
  • Zootopia Crime Files: Hidden Object