Privacy in Gaming

2017-18 Study

Video game platforms and business models are increasingly built on collection, use, and sharing of personal information for purposes of both functionality and revenue.  This paper examines privacy issues and explores data practices, technical specifications, and policy statements of the most popular games and gaming platforms to provide an overview of the current privacy legal landscape for mobile gaming, console gaming, and virtual reality devices.  The research observes how modern gaming aligns with information privacy notions and norms and how data practices and technologies specific to gaming may affect users and, in particular, child gamers.  After objectively selecting and analyzing major players in gaming, the research notes the many different ways that game companies collect data from users, including through cameras, sensors, microphones, and other hardware, through platform features for social interaction and user-generated content, and by means of tracking technologies like cookies and beacons.  The paper also notes how location and biometric data are collected routinely through game platforms and explores issues specific to mobile gaming and pairing with smartphones and other external hardware devices.

The paper concludes that transparency as to gaming companies’ data practices could be much improved, especially regarding sharing with third party affiliates.  In addition, the research considers how children’s privacy may be particularly affected while gaming, determining that special attention should be paid to user control mechanisms and privacy settings within games and platforms, that social media and other interactive features create unique privacy and safety concerns for children which require gamer and parent education, and that privacy policy language is often incongruent with age ratings advertised to children and parents.  To contribute additional research value and resources, the paper attaches a comprehensive set of appendices, on which the research conclusions are in part based, detailing the technical specifications and privacy policy statements of popular games and gaming platforms for mobile gaming, console gaming, and virtual reality devices.

Publication of the final paper is forthcoming in the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal in fall 2018.  A grant from the Digital Trust Foundation to the Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy (Fordham CLIP) supported work on this study.  The Fordham CLIP research team for the study consisted of Fordham CLIP Executive Director, N. Cameron Russell; Professor Joel R. Reidenberg, Fordham CLIP Academic Director; and Fordham Law student and Project Fellow, Sumyung Moon (FLS '18).