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The gamification of data protection


There have sadly been no end of examples over the past few years of people being caught out by posting things online that they thought were private, only for them to find their way into the wider world and bite them back.  With employers increasingly walking the tightrope of checking candidates social profiles before hiring them, the onus really is on people to ensure that what is online about them is what they want visible and in the open.

An Austrian game aims to help out by providing players with an entertaining means of learning about privacy and data security online.  The game, called Data Dealer,

“(Companies) are collecting more and more personal data,” designer Wolfie Christl said. “At the same time, people are bored with thinking about this… so we had the idea to make a game out of it.”

The game, which launched officially last week, has already proved popular with almost 100,000 players already signed up through the testing phase.  Due to support from the Austrian government, the game is going to be available online for free.

“I don’t think most people can really imagine what it means not only to collect but also to collate and to combine all these massive amounts of personal data,” said Christl, one of the game’s four core designers.

The aim of the game is to take charge of various shady looking characters and harvest personal data from as many sources as you can via as many dubious ways as you can imagine.  The users then trade the data they manage to collect in order to make as much money as possible.

“People don’t know about the value of this personal data and they also don’t control it,” Christl said, adding: “If we want to have a positive future digital society then we really need to enable people to make the self-determined use of personal data and get back control of it.”

It’s certainly an interesting idea, and one that forms part of a wider trend for games that have a wider social purpose.  Last week saw the launch of a Canadian game hoping to raise awareness and engagement with the various issues involved in running an Albertan oil town.

The challenge will be of course to transfer the knowledge learned in the game into more secure online behaviours.  Whilst it’s unlikely that this game will make a huge dent in data breeches, with so many people continuing to fall foul of data ignorance, any method of enhancing understanding has to be applauded.

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