Applications that collect personal data are nothing new. In fact, it is commonplace for software developers to implement features within their products that collect personal data from the user, related to the use of the said application. Such data can later be used for enhanced advertising as well as other things. Nobody likes having their virtual activities tracked, yet most people seem to put up with that for the sake of using a certain app or a certain website.
As we said, activity tracking and personal data collection is very common nowadays. However, when talking about children below the age of 13, things are different. According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), collection of personal information from children under the age of 13 is strictly prohibited by the law. This is, in fact, what leads us to our current case – a lawsuit filed against Disney and three software companies (Unity Technologies SF, Kochava and Upsight).
The claim from the plaintiff – Amanda Rushing – is that her child has been subjected to collection of personal data through those companies’ mobile games. According to the lawsuit claim, over 40 mobile games for Android and iOS that are owned by Disney and developed by either of the aforementioned software developers have a feature that enables the apps to track the user’s activity via software development kits (SDK’s). The core of the issue comes from the fact that the tracking of the user isn’t optional – it is argued that those mobile games do not come with an option for parental approval with regards to the data collection. Instead, the tracking is said to occur automatically.
Other instances of unauthorized children data collection
In fact, this is not the first instance where a lawsuit has be filed against Disney for tracking and collecting data from children. Another similar situation dates back to 2011 when the Federal Trade Commission (plaintiff) won the case against Disney. Once again, the claim was that the multi-billion dollar company broke COPPA due to unauthorized collection of information from children players by the Disney’s subsidiary company named Playdom.
What games have the data tracking feature?
As the claim from Amanda Rushing states, over 40 mobile games are known to keep tabs on children players’ activity without the parent’s agreement. Here, we will mention some of the applications said to have this undesirable feature: Perfect Match, Disney Gif, Moana Island Life, Disney Emoji Blitz, Maleficent Free Fall, Disney Princess Palace Pets, Zootopia Crime Files: Hidden Object, Disney Store Become, Star Wars™, Star Wars: Puzzle Droids™, Disney’s Magic Timer by Oral-B, etc.
- Side note: Even though we cannot say for sure to what extent those claims are true, we would still like to advise our readers to always carry out their own research on any new applications and program that they are going to install on their device. If you do this each time before installing anything new on your (or your children’s) smartphone, PC or laptop, the risks of getting some potentially undesirable piece of software on your device would be greatly reduced.