Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
COPPA Child Privacy Violations

New Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Viacom Alleges Violations of Child Online Privacy Laws

Lieff Cabraser and Carney Bates & Pulliam announce the filing of a federal class action child privacy protection lawsuit on behalf of parents in California against Viacom and others. Plaintiffs, a California mother and her child, allege that the companies violate privacy protection laws by exporting children’s personal and identifying information from child-focused mobile Nickelodeon games to advertising networks without first obtaining the parental consent required by federal and state law.

Basis of the Viacom Class Action Child Privacy Violations Lawsuit

The action is brought by the parent of a child who, while playing Nickelodeon games via smart phone apps, had her personally identifying information exfiltrated by Viacom and its partners for future commercial exploitation in direct violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6506. Plaintiffs also bring their claims under state law to obtain damages and a court injunction forcing the companies to cease these practices and sequester all illegally obtained information.

The complaint also names Upsight and Unity, the ad tech companies that embedded software in Viacom’s child-focused Nickelodeon apps to track, collect, and export the children’s personal information. The complaint alleges that this software captures children’s personal information along with information about their online behavior, which is then sold to third party companies which track the children’s behavior across multiple apps and devices for subsequent ad targeting.

“These child data and privacy laws were enacted by Congress and individual states as critical protections for our children, to safeguard their security online and to ensure they are not unwittingly exploited for financial gain,” notes Michael W. Sobol, a Lieff Cabraser partner and one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit. “With Viacom’s focus on children as their audience for entertainment but also profit, Viacom has a fundamental obligation to make sure their games and apps – especially Nickelodeon games and apps – comply with child data and child privacy law. They and the companies they work with must obtain verifiable parental consent before extracting kids’ data from their mobile devices when kids play Nickelodeon games.”

The lawsuit follows in the wake of similar recent filings on behalf of aggrieved parents against The Walt Disney Company as well as developers Kiloo & Sybo, creators of the massively popular “Subway Surfers” smartphone game. Each of the lawsuits puts forward the same core claims alleging improper data extraction and child information merchandising by the game creators and their tech partners.

COPPA Federal Child Data Protection Laws

Congress enacted COPPA in 1999 to protect the privacy and safety of children online, and the autonomy of their parents, by providing parents the means to halt developers and third-party advertisers from snooping on and profiting from their children.

Many parents, however, are unaware that countless web and smartphone apps, including those created for children, are engineered to unlawfully exploit and commercialize underage users’ activity through hidden tracking technologies. As alleged in the Nickelodeon complaint, these technologies unlawfully and surreptitiously collect and send data, including the users’ personal information, from the mobile devices to third-parties. App developers and other third-parties then reap millions of dollars in profit from this personal information through lucrative targeted advertising.

The parent of a minor child brought the lawsuit seeking an injunction to force the defendants to cease tracking the personal information of children without obtaining parental consent and to bring defendants in compliance with COPPA. The parents also seek damages as may be permitted under state law.

Notice to Parents on Child Privacy Violations in Games and Apps

If your child uses an internet-connected game device to play games from Nickelodeon or any other company and you suspect your child’s personal information may have been improperly acquired or used, please contact us about your potential case. Our no-obligation review is free, and the information you provide will help us hold companies accountable for COPPA privacy violations and the exploitation of children and/or any other data improprieties that have occurred.

About Lieff Cabraser

Lieff Cabraser is committed to helping parents protect their children, their privacy, and their children’s information in a world where electronic toys and games and digital devices with inherent security vulnerabilities are growing more and more pervasive. Our lawyers possess extensive experience and the requisite technological background to successfully assess and litigate all manner of privacy claims. We represent individuals in precedent-setting cases impacting hundreds of millions of Americans against prominent technology, social media, and entertainment corporations for alleged violations of digital privacy rights, data overreaching, and the failure to protect critically-sensitive information.

About Carney Bates & Pulliam, PLLC

Carney Bates & Pulliam is a law firm based in Little Rock, Arkansas that specializes in class action litigation. From consumer protection to environmental hazards to civil rights to data privacy, Carney Bates & Pulliam achieves the maximum impact for the greatest number of people. The firm’s attorneys have a wide array of litigation experience and specialized legal knowledge. The diverse interests and backgrounds within the firm enable us to help clients across a vast spectrum. Carney Bates & Pulliam’s ability to analyze legal and societal trends means that our practice areas keep growing and evolving, changing to fit the needs of our clients.

Source/Contact

Douglas I. Cuthbertson
Nicholas Diamand
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
212 355-9500