Video games and online games are becoming more and more popular, not only as entertainment products but also as a learning tool: this is called gamification. The professionalization of the sector and the growth of this industry has placed Catalonia at the forefront, with 167 video game creation studios employing 3,381 professionals and an annual turnover of around 500 million euros.
Aware of this reality, the Catalan Data Protection Authority (APDCAT) has wanted to emphasize the need to become aware of the personal data shared with these practices and to adopt a critical and active attitude in this regard. The aim is to provide information and open the debate so that citizens can make conscious and responsible decisions, taking into account the consequences that may arise from the dissemination of data on the Internet.
During the talk “Personal data: free video games”, held at the Palau Robert as part of the parallel activities of the exhibition “Nova Pantalla: the video game in Catalonia”, the data protection officer and head of strategic projects at the APDCAT, Joana Marí, and the information systems auditor of the Authority, Xavier Puig, have highlighted the “price” of personal data and have remarked that the services that are apparently free also have, very often a cost to people, and that cost may be related to unknown subsequent uses of their personal data.
They are unknown because often the user does not know why they are asking for that data to register, or what they will use it for. In addition, you may not have consciously given your consent to transfer it to other companies that want to take advantage of that data to do business.
In this sense, during the talk, Joana Marí spoke about the datification or tendency to turn any human attitude, state or behavior into a quantifiable data to be analyzed. Marí emphasized that new technologies make it possible to study people, catalog them and create profiles for them, to personalize products or services and improve the user experience. However, Marí recalled the risk involved in this segmentation, especially in vulnerable groups such as minors, because based on this information an algorithm decides which products to offer them to be successful, while ignoring everything else. In this way, profiles created with personal data can be used to manipulate people and distort reality, as the range of services and information to which they have access is restricted and causes a "bubble filter" effect. "We are talking about a loss of freedoms", says Marí.
The location, the name, the voice, the image of the people participating in the online game with live cameras, the connection time, the duration of the game, the behaviors and decisions, the conversations during the game. All of this is data that defines people and poses a risk in all areas, depending on how they are used. "It's not about having nothing to hide, but seemingly harmless data can be used to assess your professional performance, predict your health, etc., and that this information affects your future", says Marí.
Stimulation and learning
For his part, Xavier Puig highlighted the role of play in learning and recalled the rise of gaming, as a teaching methodology to stimulate and motivate students. The dynamics of the game, the short-term rewards and the competition are aspects that encourage the involvement and attention of people, which means great advantages for the acquisition of knowledge from entertainment.
However, Puig warns that there are risks that must be borne in mind. For example, the free-to-play game, which "is not as free as it may seem", since there is often "a return with our personal data". It seeks an emotional connection with the player, which is built on the knowledge of his personality, with his personal data: age, tastes, roles, behavior in front of others. And more connection time, more information. In this way, it is possible to anticipate and predict what will happen. "This is not a bad thing in itself, but you always have to know what is being done with the data and what is being done with it", he said.
Therefore, he insisted that "it is necessary to put light and be aware of this price in the shadows, to build a more critical and active society in this regard". Thus, he recommended knowing "the price of the game in all dimensions", compare available alternatives and protect yourself with techniques such as using a specific email for this practice, do not reuse the usual passwords, watch with the connection site and set boundaries, especially in minors.
As for developers, Puig recalled that when collecting personal data they must apply the fundamental principles of data protection, such as that they must be the minimum necessary for that purpose, with the consent or other legal basis and that they must inform the people affected about what data they collect, for what, for how long and for what purpose. Also if they will give them to others and finally what their rights are and how to exercise them.