It has been a turbulent week for the Walt Disney Company after they found themselves facing a lawsuit. The world wide famous children’s entertainment company that is based in California, USA, has been found to be collecting personal information about users of its mobile apps. Disney’s typical users are children, of course, and they are selling their personal information to marketing companies.
It was the law firm Lieff Cabraser as well as Carney Bates & Pulliam that brought a lawsuit to a Northern California district court on behalf of Amanda Rushing. The suit centers around the fact that the mother, Amanda Rushing did not know that data would be collected via the Disney app that had been downloaded for her child. The app in question was the Disney Prince Palace Pets mobile app. The mother was concerned that information about her child would be sold to marketing companies in order to sell other products to her child from other websites. Disney failed to ask for permission to collect this data, which due to the fact the child was under 13 years old at the time is a legal requirement.
The law at the center of the suit is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which is known as COPPA. This says that any organization that builds apps for children or indeed any third party companies that are working with them, must ask for permission before collecting any data that is personal to the child. This lawsuit brings the case against Disney Enterprises, Disney, Disney Electronic Content, Upsight Technologies and Kochava. It is Unity Technologies and Kochava that have developed the software that captures the child’s personal information.
Previous COPPA complications
Disney has done something similar before. Back in 2011, a lawsuit was brought against them for breaching the COPPA act. It seems that Disney’s Playdom unit had to pay a huge 3 million dollar pay out after it was found that Disney was unlawfully collecting data on children without the parents’ explicit consent. Many parents are not even aware that many apps geared towards children collect such data without consent, selling it for marketing purposes elsewhere.
Lieff Cabraser commented that the COPPA act was there for a very good reason. The firm states that Disney has long benefited from making a fortune out of children, and the company needs to ensure that all its activities fall within the law. This means that they must seek the consent of the child’s parents before passing on personal information to any third party, including marketing companies.
There are several parts to the lawsuit that has been filed against Disney. The law firms are asking for several things. First of all they are requesting that Disney be immediately stopped from tracking any children’s usage of their apps. That includes the collection of any personal data that could potentially be sold to a marketing company. The only time that this would be allowed is where they get consent from the child’s parents to do so. Secondly, the suit is seeking to recover punitive damages and legal costs for filing the lawsuit.
Disney was asked to comment on the situation. They said that they have a strict process that ensures all their products and services adhere to the COPPA act. They claim that Amanda Rushing is simply not understanding the principles contained within the COPPA act, which they describe as a ‘fundamental understanding’. Disney further added that they are looking forward to having the opportunity to defend their policies and procedures related to COPPA in court.
Disney is one of the largest and most well-respected children’s entertainment companies in the world. However, this lawsuit argues that actually, they are looking to profit as much as they possibly can from children, even if that means not complying with the COPPA act. The parent of this child brings the lawsuit to ensure that Disney and other similar companies in the future cannot do this and collect data related to children online for marketing purposes. Disney continues to argue, however, that they have not done anything wrong and that they will make sure that they defend themselves when the case is heard in court.