Class Actions Against Walt Disney, Viacom, Kiloo, Sybo and Others, For Violations of the Privacy Rights of Children and their Parents
In July and August 2017, Lieff Cabraser filed class action lawsuits against several developers of children’s gaming apps and their software developer partners. These lawsuits allege that defendants unlawfully collected, used, and disseminated the personal information of children who played the gaming apps on smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. In June 2018, Lieff Cabraser filed amended complaints, which further detailed defendants’ unlawful behavior. These allegations cover some of the most popular child gaming apps: Nickelodeon’s Llama Spit Spit, Disney’s Princess Palace Pets, and Where’s My Water, and Kiloo’s Subway Surfers.
The lawsuits allege that children’s personal data is pulled from their devices using advertising tracking software. The app developers – including Kiloo, Disney, and Viacom, the parent company of Nickelodeon—license advertising software from software developers which they then embed in gaming apps marketed to children. When children download and play one of these games, the advertising tracking software gathers and sends children’s personal data to advertisers operating within vast advertising networks. The advertising networks may then improperly use that data to build detailed data profiles of the children playing the games in order to target them with advertising based upon their demographics and gaming and other online behavior. Gaming app developers and their advertising partners share in the revenue generated from this tracking behavior.
Below are descriptions of the defendants and their gaming apps included in these lawsuits.
If you suspect your child’s data might have been improperly acquired or used by a mobile game or app without your permission, please call us today at 1 800 541-7358 or use the form on this page. We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about the case.
The Improper Acquisition and Use of Children’s Data
In the online world, children are particularly vulnerable to companies that seek to profit from the collection and exchange of their private data. Parents and their children have a reasonable expectation of privacy in children’s online activity, which is why long-standing legal privacy protections exist to shield parents and their children from these intrusions, allow parents to maintain the privacy of their children, and provide the opportunity to raise their children as they see fit. By collecting personal information from unsuspecting children, without notice to or consent from their parents, Defendants have breached basic norms about how companies must conduct their business with children. These norms have existed in the bedrock of our society for centuries, and have been re-expressed time and again with the development of new technologies, such as motion pictures, radio, broadcast television, and cable television. For example, Congress recognized the offensiveness of the collection and commercial exploitation of children’s online data and behavior when it enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Lieff Cabraser’s lawsuits seek to assist in protecting parents and their children from the unwanted collection and exploitation of children’s personal data, under time-honored laws protecting privacy: a California common law invasion of privacy claim, a California Constitution right of privacy claim, a California unfair competition claim, a New York General Business Law claim, a Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices claim, and a Massachusetts statutory right to privacy claim.
Plaintiffs—parents on behalf of their children—allege that certain of Disney’s child gaming apps collect, use, and disseminate the personal information of the children playing those games.
The apps included in the complaint are Princess Palace Pets and the Where’s My Water apps (Where’s My Water?, Where’s My Water? 2, Where’s and My Water? Free/Lite).
The defendants in the lawsuit are Disney, the developer of these gaming apps, and the advertising software developers that had their software embedded within the gaming apps, including Upsight, Inc., Unity Technologies SF, Kochava, Inc., MoPub Inc. (owned by Twitter Inc.), and comScore, Inc. and Full Circle Studies Inc. The information collected, analyzed, and used allow Disney and its partners to track children’s activities for their own commercial gain.
Viacom, through its brand group Nickelodeon, develops and markets dozens of popular mobile apps for kids. Lieff Cabraser’s lawsuit alleges that in the app Llama Spit Spit, children’s personal information is collected from their personal devices without their or their parents’ knowledge or approval. This information is stored, analyzed, and used to allow Viacom and its partners to track children’s activities for their own commercial gain.
Also named as defendants in this lawsuit are advertising software developers that work with Viacom in these apps, including Upsight, Inc. and Unity Technologies SF.
C. The Subway Surfers Lawsuit
Defendants Kiloo A/S and Sybo ApS developed and market the hugely popular mobile app game Subway Surfers, a game marketed to and popular among children. Subway Surfers has more than a billion downloads worldwide. In its lawsuit against Kiloo and Sybo, Lieff Cabraser (on behalf of parents of child users of Subway Surfers) alleges that the Subway Surfers’ developers unlawfully collect and use children’s personal information from Subway Surfers in violation of privacy laws.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are advertising software developers that work with Kiloo and/or Sybo in these apps, including: AdColony, Chartboost, Flurry, Inc. and Oath Inc., InMobi Pte. Ltd, ironSource USA, Inc., Tapjoy, Inc., and Vungle, Inc.
Resolution of the Child Gaming Privacy Cases
In April 2021, U.S. District Judge James Donato granted final approval to settlements in the three related child privacy class action lawsuits addressing the illegal collection and monetization of personal data from children in mobile apps. The 16 settlements provide stringent and wide-ranging privacy protections and meaningful changes to defendants’ business practices, ensuring participants in the largely unpoliced mobile advertising industry proactively protect children’s privacy in thousands of apps popular with children. Under the settlements, which The New York Times stated “could reshape the entire children’s app market,” Disney, Viacom, and others as well as their advertising technology partners must stop tracking children across apps and the internet for advertising purposes.
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.
Lieff Cabraser is similarly committed to ensuring that the fundamental right to privacy is respected and endures, even as technology evolves and society changes. Our cybersecurity attorneys possess extensive experience and the requisite technological background to successfully assert and litigate a comprehensive range of privacy claims.
We represent individuals and classes in precedent-setting cases impacting tens and even hundreds of millions of Americans against prominent technology, social media, and entertainment companies for violations of digital privacy rights and the failure to protect critically-sensitive personal, employee, and child data.
Lieff Cabraser partner Michael W. Sobol, chair of the firm’s Cybersecurity practice group, was named a Top California Cybersecurity Lawyer for 2018. In 2017, Sobol was selected by Law360 as an “MVP” for Cybersecurity and Privacy, and by the National Law Journal as a “Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Trailblazer.” Law360 named Lieff Cabraser’s Cybersecurity group as its 2017 “Practice Group of the Year” for Digital Privacy and Data Protection, and selected our firm as one of six “California Powerhouse” firms for litigation, the only plaintiffs’ firm so honored.