Full disclosure: a significant portion of our staff loves to play video games and considers ourselves gamers. We keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the ecosystems of PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and Steam while spending hours gaining trophies, achievements and high scores. That being said, it's more important than ever that we be aware of what kinds of devices and services we bring into our lives.
A study by N. Cameron Russel, Joel R. Reidenberg, and Sumyung Moon of the Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) at Fordham Law School recently reviewed the privacy practices of some of the best-selling video games and video game consoles—discovering, in many cases, the data collection practices (including the practices’ transparency and choices) left much to be desired.
To get a better idea of what kind of data collection practices are being used and what choices users have in their collection, CLIP analyzed the five top-selling games on the Android and Apple app stores (seven total games) during June 2017:
- Clash of Clans
- Game of War: Fire Age
- Clash Royale
- Mobile Strike
- Candy Crush Saga
- Candy Crush Soda Saga
- Pokemon Go
the five top-selling video game consoles for the same period:
and the most popular virtual reality platforms for the first quarter of 2017:
CLIP found that across all devices there are many different ways that game companies can collect information on users which information that we typically consider as being very sensitive. According to the report, “Location data and biometric data—like facial, voice, heart rate, weight, skin response, brain activity, and eye-tracking data—is now routinely collected while gaming.”
The report continued, “Data flows extend beyond the game and game console, and . . . data is often aggregated with external partners and sources. Every game and platform Fordham CLIP examined states that gamer data may be shared with advertising platforms or used for advertising purposes” and that, “transparency as to gaming companies’ data sharing practices could be much improved.”
We’re not saying to immediately stop playing your console of choice or to delete your favorite game from your phone. However, it’s important to be aware—especially with video games directed at children—of how something as seemingly innocuous as Candy Crush can end up harvesting data that you may not know about.
If you have a story about your experience with privacy in video games, please share it with us!