These 42 Disney apps allegedly track your kids for profit

By Cal Jeffrey ยท 8 replies
Aug 8, 2017
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  1. According to a lawsuit recently filed in San Francisco, the Walt Disney Company has allegedly been collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 and selling it to advertisers.

    The filing claims Disney and three other software companies – Upsight, Unity, and Kochava – have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and is seeking an injunction to bar the companies from collecting and sharing data without parental consent. It is also looking to collect punitive damages and legal fees. The plaintiffs listed in the case are Amanda Rushing and her child, L.L., "on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated," indicating that it is a class action suit.

    The plaintiffs allege that Disney and its software partners embedded tracking tools within popular apps targeted at young children. Most of the apps are rated for children younger than five or for everyone / all ages.

    "[The trackers] exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes," the suit claims. Profiles are sent to data and analytic companies for "commercial exploitation."

    "These are heavy-duty technologies whose role is to track and monetize individuals," Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Washington Post. "These should not be in little children’s apps."

    Disney issued a statement yesterday denying the claim and pledging to fight the lawsuit in court.

    "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."

    Despite its "robust COPPA compliance program," Disney has been found guilty of similar violations in the past.

    In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission fined the Disney subsidiary Playdom $3 million when it violated the child protection act by registering 1.2 million users for online play. Most of these users were under the age of 13. The registration collected similar information as the current apps in question such as email addresses, ages, full names, instant messenger handles and physical locations.

    Some of the 42 apps listed in the lawsuit are extremely popular. Stats on the Google Play Store, for instance, show that Where’s My Water? 2 has been downloaded over 100 million times and has been reviewed by almost two million users. Disney’s Frozen Free Fall, which has been downloaded more than 50 million times, is another listed on the court filing.

    The full list of apps named in the lawsuit includes:

    • 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

    The class action seeks to represent consumers in 35 states. A trial date has not yet been set.

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,864   +1,258

    Ok but what about all the other apps that are not made by Disney?
    wiyosaya likes this.
  3. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,855   +655

    This is why giving a child a smart phone with always online connectivity is a terrible idea, apps aren't regulated heavily enough, let alone for apps designed for children, well now these kids are going to be tracked by advertisement for the rest of their lives. I blame the parents.
    Reehahs and wiyosaya like this.
  4. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Guru Posts: 508   +265

    Cool your jets there. Even if they're tracked by advertisers what's the downside? Targeted ads? CREDIT CARD DEBT?!?!

    Compare that to identity theft, child abuse, even smoking and is it really that bad for free apps?
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,992   +2,473

    No surprise here .... but tasteless, completely tasteless!
    wiyosaya likes this.
  6. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,596   +1,231


    As I see it, other apps could easily lead to identity theft, child abuse, even smoking and yes, these are that bad especially coming from a company that makes a good portion of its profits by marketing to kids.
  7. MonsterZero

    MonsterZero TS Evangelist Posts: 486   +258

    Why are they tracking kids apps to begin with? Just stop already. Case closed.
  8. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,689   +1,800

    Disney is the only one obligated to sell that information to legit advertisers and even then there isn't really any requirements to anonymize that data. Sure, they say they strip the information from identifying factors but information in and or itself is identifying in any sort of set. Said information will go to advertisers, who will corroborate information from multiple sources, and it should be easy for them to put the pieces together even if Disney is a Karmic angel and decides to go above and beyond the current law (or lack thereof).

    Being a information broker isn't illegal either. There are companies that simply exist to gather massive amounts of information and piece it together to make products for all sorts of businesses.

    FYI, Credit card debt is not joke. Kind of hard to do anything with poor credit. It's especially bad when you had nothing to do with it.
  9. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Guru Posts: 508   +265

    Compared to child welfare endangerment I am not too worried about fiscal irresponsibility.

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