Walt Disney pays out on child snooping case

Mickey Mouse outfit Walt Disney has paid more than $3 million to make US regulators go away after it was revealed several sites once operated by its Playdom games division illegally collected and disclosed personal information from thousands of children.

You would expect an outfit like Disney to be a little sensitive to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. To be fair, it didn’t buy Playdom until last year and the abuses seem to have been committed before Walt’s fantasyland team got its paws on the outfit.

According to the LA Times, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claimed that several Disney sites, including an online virtual world called Pony Stars, illegally collected and disclosed personal information.

More than 821,000 children kiddies registered with Pony Stars from 2006 to 2010 and 403,000 children provided their information to some of the 19 other virtual worlds operated by Playdom, including 2 Moons, 9 Dragons and My Diva Doll.

Playdom’s sites harvested children’s ages and email addresses during the registration process, and allowed them to publicly post personal information including their real names and locations. It did all this without getting parents’ consent before collecting or disclosing this information.

Disney Interactive Media Group spokeswoman Carrie Davis said that Disney was pleased that Playdom and the FTC have now resolved this matter amicably.

Disney bought Playdom for $563 million on August 27 and by then most of the online virtual worlds operated by Acclaim had been shut down. Some of the sites had been shifted to operators outside the US, the FTC maintained in its complaint.

France’s Feerik, took over operation of Pony Stars and My Diva Doll. Feerik has since shut down both online virtual worlds in November and transferred the individual data back to Playdom.