Disney sued for allegedly spying on children through 42 gaming apps

A federal class action lawsuit filed last week in California alleges that the Walt Disney Company is violating privacy protection laws by collecting children’s personal information from 42 of its apps and sharing the data with advertisers without parental consent.

The lawsuit targets Disney and three software companies — Upsight, Unity, and Kochava — alleging that the companies created mobile apps aimed at children that contained embedded software to track, collect, and then export their personal information along with information about their online behavior. The plaintiff, a San Francisco woman named Amanda Rushing, says she was unaware that information about her child, “L.L.,” was collected while playing mobile game Disney Princess Palace Pets, and that data was then sold to third parties for ad targeting.

The class action suit says this violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was enacted by Congress in 1999 and designed to protect the privacy of children online. COPPA requires that companies designing apps for children under the age of 13 obtain consent from parents before collecting personal information. In 2013, the FTC revised COPPA, expanding what counts as personal information to include things like geolocation markers and IP addresses. The update also requires third-party advertisers to comply with the rules.

In total, the lawsuit names 42 Disney apps it says run afoul of COPPA. The plaintiff is seeking an injunction barring the defendants from tracking and sharing data collected without parental consent, as well as “appropriate relief, including actual and statutory damages and punitive damages,” plus all costs related to prosecuting the action.

Disney has responded to the lawsuit, saying:

“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.”

This is not the first time Disney has faced COPPA violations. In 2011, the FTC levied a $3 million civil penalty against subsidiary Playdom after it illegally collected and disclosed personal information from “hundreds of thousands of children under age 13 without their parents’ prior consent.”


Apple adds Disney and Pixar characters to Clips

Apple’s super simple video editing app Clips just got its first significant upgrade since launching in April. There are a couple of feature updates in the mix, but the biggest additions are content — including, most notably, a bunch of licensed characters from the Disney/Pixar universes, adding animated overlays and transitions starring familiar faces like Mickey and Woody.

Content is one of Clips’ key selling points, along with its simple-to-a-fault UI, and Apple’s promised to continue adding new stuff to the app, in order to keep things fresh. The addition of a bunch of iconic characters from Disney and movies like Toy Story and Inside Outwill likely help the app get on the radar of more users faster than any standard old filter or overlay. This marks the latest in an on-going relationship between the two corporate powerhouses, including, most notably, the addition of a classic Mickey to the list of available Apple Watch faces.

The teams have done a good job incorporating animated graphical overlays of things Minnie dancing and Fear from Inside Out running away from everything. I haven’t actually played with the upgrade myself, but they add a nice, dynamic touch to videos created on the app. 

The Disney partnership comes at a good time for the app (though it did just barely miss a debut at last week’s Star Wars-heavy D23). Initial interest in the app has seems to have waned after its release. As we noted, shortly after that premier, Clips scored up to one million downloads in its first four days in the charts, but according to App Annie numbers, its ranking fell off soon thereafter.

Perhaps continual updates will help the app get some more traction in the highly competitive Photo and Video category. Apple also released a minor update back in May, but that was mostly focused on feature tweaks and addressing stability concerns.

The new 1.1 update also brings additional overlays and posts from from Apple, along with a Live Tile edit button that makes it easier to interact with the app’s speech-to-text captioning — probably Clips’ most compelling feature. Disney characters will appear in the menus as soon as the update is installed, but users will have to download them individually like the its music offerings, in an attempt to keep the app’s size down.


Clips now features Disney and Pixar characters and new graphic overlays

Clips, Apple’s easy-to-use video creation app for iOS, is getting an update today that includes dozens of new graphic overlays and posters, plus usability improvements that make it even easier to turn video clips and photos into fun, expressive videos on iPhone and iPad.
Users can now add classic Disney and Pixar characters to their videos. Clips 1.1 features animated overlays of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck. The app also includes characters from Pixar’s Toy Story and Inside Out, so users can choose to star with Woody or Jessie, or show their emotions with Joy, Fear and others. To complement the collection of characters, new Disney-designed posters can be added to videos as playful title cards to help tell a story.
Clips also adds 10 new Apple-designed overlays and 12 posters that feature dramatic graphics, beautifully rendered backgrounds and customizable animated text. From glistening water to slow motion billowing smoke and 3-D pop-up art, the new poster designs bring more versatility to iOS video creation.