Fortnite's Parent Company Epic Games Accused of Profiting from Kids' Data

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Families Take Legal Action, Claiming Epic Games Compromised Their Children's Privacy For Financial Gain.

The maker of the globally popular video game Fortnite uses children’s data to track them online and exploit that information for its own financial gain, raking in tens of millions in revenue, a new lawsuit alleges.

Seven children and their parents filed the proposed class action lawsuit against Epic Games Inc on March 18 in a California court, alleging violations to state privacy laws and consumer laws. 

Epic is the developer of Fortnite, a video game with over 500 million registered players worldwide.

While Fortnite is free to download, Epic generates billions of dollars in revenue through the sale of in-game purchases, and advertising and merchandising contracts, the lawsuit states. It does this in part by tracking kids online, the plaintiffs allege.

“Fortnite’s revenue streams each depend upon the exploitation of children and their personal information,” they say.

Privacy vs. profit

Fortnite’s makers knew millions of its users were children, and purposefully targeted them, the lawsuit says.

Although technically rated for teenagers, Epic designed the look and feel of Fortnite to appeal to younger children, it says. “For example, Fortnite features bright, colorful graphics with a cartoonish style.” 

Once kids are on the platform, Epic routinely collects their personal information, such as names, screen names, geolocation and biometric data. This allows it to target them in-game purchases, advertising and merchandise, the plaintiffs say.

They say Epic used that personal information to develop merchandise like clothing, and in-game items available for purchase like dance moves.

“This behavior generated tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) in revenue for Epic,” the lawsuit says.

Safety concerns in Fortnite’s social features

As well as allegedly exploiting children for financial gain, Fortnite also allowed children to match with strangers during game play and permitted them to chat via voice and text without parental notice or consent, the lawsuit states.

“Fortnite facilitated dangerous interactions that exposed children to bullying, threats, and harassment, including sexual harassment,” the plaintiffs say. 

They’re looking to represent anyone in Washington or California who was under 13 when they created an Epic account and played any version of Fortnite, plus a class of residents from more than 30 states where residents are protected from “inclusion upon seclusion.”

The plaintiffs are seeking certification of the class action, damages, fees, costs and a jury trial.

Epic Games’ history of privacy challenges

The recent lawsuit against Epic Games regarding Fortnite shouldn't be shocking news to the gaming company. 

This legal action builds upon previous incidents, notably Epic's $275 million settlement in December 2022 for breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This violation involved Epic's failure to inform parents about the collection of kids’ personal information without proper consent.

In September 2023, Epic reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agreeing to refund $245 million to users who were mistakenly charged for in-game purchases. The company also faced criticism for locking the accounts of individuals who raised concerns about the unauthorized charges.

The plaintiffs and the proposed class are represented by Patrick Carey and Mark Todzo of Lexington Law Group LLP; and Ian W. Sloss, Jennifer Sclar, Johnathan Seredynski, Krystyna Gancoss and Kate Sayed of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP.

The Fortnite children's data class action lawsuit is S.T.G. et al., v. Epic Games Inc., Case No. 3:24-cv-00517-RSH-AHG in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.