On May 22, 2019, U.S. District Judge James Donato denied a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit accusing Viacom and The Walt Disney Company of violating child privacy protection laws by collecting and selling personal identifying information of children who used their child-focused mobile apps. The lawsuits allege the media giants collected kid’s data without parental consent and improperly used it to focus and transmit targeted advertising.
In his 22-page order, Judge Donato made reference to the rapidly evolving landscape surrounding personal data. “Current privacy expectations are developing, to say the least, with respect to a key issue raised in these cases — whether the data subject owns and controls his or her personal information, and whether a commercial entity that secretly harvests it commits a highly offensive or egregious act.”
About the Disney & Viacom Class Action Child Privacy Violation Lawsuits
The lawsuit against Viacom was 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 brought 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 lawsuit 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 lawsuit 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.
The lawsuits against The Walt Disney Company as well as developers Kiloo & Sybo, creators of the massively popular “Subway Surfers” smartphone game, were similarly filed on behalf of aggrieved parents. 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.
Lieff Cabraser’s Work in Digital Privacy & Child Data Security
Lieff Cabraser is committed to helping parents protect their children, their privacy, and their children’s information in a world where electronic toys, mobile games, and digital devices with inherent security vulnerabilities are growing more and more pervasive. From voice-controlled home devices that can leak sensitive information to video-recording toys and interactive digital games whose data can be leaked or accessed improperly, our private data — and, in particular, children’s private information — faces a growing risk of exposure and improper sharing. An important part of our work protecting children and their data consists of ensuring that companies obey child data protection laws and take all the required steps to ensure that kids’ data remains secure and private.