Privacy in online games

This short-term study covers data protection issues with regard to online gaming

Video games are booming. At any given moment millions of people are playing online and therefore are traceable. In cooperation with the department of consumer protection of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour the ITA examined issues of data protection in the context of online gaming.

Throughout the last decades computer games became mass media, which are consumed more often than television or radio amongst younger generations. Video games are also professional sports, and a flourishing industry worth billions of Euros. At the same time online games became a virtual space surveilled by states and commercial actors.

In Europe millions of people, amongst them children and adolescents, are playing video games. The average age is 35. Most of them are playing online. Therefore, everything they do in-game is recorded and analysed by different groups. Nothing remains unseen for intelligence services, manufacturers, publishers, server operators or production companies.

Data profiles circumstantiate people

Online games, in their function as virtual worlds, as spaces, which can be explored and tested, where fantasies become true and skills are trained, where one meets friends and talks about everyday problems, become more important for a lot of people and are constantly monitored by commercial and state actors. In the future, how will people perceive society, when it is a given that everyone has a data profile, which contains even the things said or done in the most unthought moments?

Findings

Data protection in the context of online gaming is significantly underrepresented. The project report describes problematic commercial and technical developments and presents starting points for further research and policy recommendations for improving consumers’ situation. Eventually it seems important to promote the concepts of data protection in the world of online gaming. Especially where a lot of data is generated, more awareness concerning the usage of data is necessary, to avoid negative societal impacts in the future.

What kind of data do online game provider get from the users? (collage: ITA/pixabay)
Duration
02/2017 - 10/2017
Funding
Austrian Chamber of Labour