At the start of the new year, one of the most anticipated video games of the year was Watch_Dogs, an open-world experience where players played the role of a hacker living in near-future Chicago, racing around the city using a mobile device to retrieve sensitive data and harnessing augmented reality feeds to pick up information about non-player character’s demographic data or potential in-game behavior. The game not only highlighted current concerns about privacy, but it got me thinking about all the many privacy issues at play in the world of video games.
Many of these issues are similar to work FPF has already done in the mobile space with regards to apps and online services, but as a long time gamer, these data collection and use issues were things I didn’t really think about when picking up a controller in front of my television. Modern games collect data such as a player’s physical characteristics (including facial features, body movement and voice data), location and nearby surroundings, biometrics, and information gleaned from one’s social networks, to start. Additionally, within the game environment itself data analysts monitor in-game behavior in order to discover a great deal about a gamer’s mind: from their temperament to their leadership skills; from their greatest fears to their political leanings.
The use of data is rapidly changing the gaming landscape, leading to a whole host of new innovative ways to play, but also potentially giving this gamer some pause. I teamed up with Joe Newman, now at Electronic Arts, and Chris Hazard, a game developer and researcher, to survey privacy issues in video gaming. Our paper, Press Start to Track?, was presented at the 2014 Privacy Law Scholars Conference, and was this week published in the journal of the American Intellectual Property Law Association.
If interested in the subject (but unable to do a deep dive), Joe and I blogged about some of our thoughts on The Escapist and our thoughts for how data-hungry game developers can build trust with gamers at Gamasutra.
-Joseph Jerome, Policy Counsel