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Ad Giants are Pledging to Reshape Privacy Rules in the Children's App Market

Disney is among a number of tech giants and ad-tech firms in agreeing to privacy changes, including removing targeted ads from children's apps

Disney, Viacom and 10 ad-tech firms have agreed to remove select advertising softwares from apps made for children following the settling of three class-action lawsuits that require the companies to make 'substantial changes' to the advertising seen in apps. The lawsuits surrounded accusations that stated the ad software used violated the privacy of millions of minors, and involved some of the largest advertisement technology companies such as MoPub and Subway Surfers according to the New York Times.

The companies were reportedly accused of “insidious and manipulative forms of marketing", as a result of the tracking software that was added of children's games without parents' consent or knowledge, which is in violation of both state privacy and fair business practice laws. Further, the lawsuits claimed that the trackers could be used to 'profile' children and then be used to create targeted ads which encouraged the users to make in-app purchases according tot he legal fillings in the case.

The companies involved have now agreed to remove and/or disable tracking software from the apps under the settlements approved on the 12th of this month. While the 'defendants' denied the allegations from the three separate lawsuits that stated they used or 'allowed' tracking technology included in various mobile apps used by children and teens which allowed to serve the users targeted advertisements, they did agree to implement certain business practices for covered gaming apps. the developers will still be able to display adds based on the apps content, but not continue with targeted ads.

A judge at the US District Court for the Northern District of California has since approved a settlement which will mean companies are forced to disable the tracking software in question.

“This is going to be the biggest change to the children’s app market that we’ve seen that gets at the business models, on thousands of apps, children will no longer be targeted with the most insidious and manipulative forms of marketing.” - Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

As mentioned, the companies involved did not admit to wrongdoing, but still agreed to the terms laid out by the courts, while many owners of many of the games involved, such as Viacom, Disney and Kiloo are yet to comment on the allegations.

The Federal Trade Commission have been seeking to better regulate advertising among children's apps for a number of years, these lawsuits are likely the first step in many to come for genuine and industry-wide change for a safer online space for children.

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