Activision’s privacy document is extensive, but is written in a way that’s easy to understand and contains links to help users opt out of their targeted mobile advertising program. In the past, I’ve asked readers to check out privacy policies before using mobile apps. Here, I’m telling online gamers the steps you should take to keep your their data private while you play.
Why Game Developers Want Your Data
If you’re playing an Activision game and running other software on your gaming device simultaneously, Activision may monitor and record that activity. My initial reaction to this kind of tracking was negative. However, a quick Twitter search(Opens in a new window) yields complaints from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II players regarding others using software to cheat during the open beta. I think anti-cheat monitoring is necessary for everyone to have an equitable and fun gaming experience, so I’m okay with that kind of in-game observation by the company.
How Game Companies Collect and Lose Your Personal Information
I have less of a problem with player activity monitoring by game companies and more of a concern with the amount of data the companies keep about their players. The more player information companies retain, the more data there is for hackers to steal during inevitable data breach incidents.
Earlier this year, a criminal breached the Neopets database, potentially exposing payment and personal information connected to almost 70 million accounts. In a statement, the Neopets (Opens in a new window)website confirmed the hack and informed users that the information stolen might include the following: “…data provided when registering for or playing Neopets, including name, email address, username, date of birth, gender, IP address, Neopets PIN, hashed password, as well as data about a player’s pet, gameplay, and other information provided to Neopets.”
The online security research site TechRobot recently published a report(Opens in a new window) analyzing top game developers’ privacy policies. TechRobot found that over half of the online game developers examined in the study retain data concerning who gamers play with, and nearly 90% of the game companies collect information gleaned from in-game chats.
Riot collects a lot of personal information, and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that bad actors want when they’re hatching their identity theft schemes. In the aftermath of a data breach, it’s easy for criminals to combine all of those disparate pieces of personally identifiable information to create a victim profile. The crooks then use these data profiles to impersonate their victims and open up lines of credit in their names or create fake social media profiles used to scam the people in their contact lists.
How to Protect Your Data When Playing Online Games
Below are a few ways you can reduce your online data footprint while still playing the games you love:
Use a VPN while you play. A VPN is a privacy tool that can hide your IP address, thus concealing your geographical location and changing your DNS information. Remember that some games ban players from VPN use for location-locked release dates or region-locked in-game items. Since latency and speed can be affected by their use, we’ve rounded up a list of the best VPNs for gaming.
Use a password manager to create and store your game account credentials. When the game company’s servers are hacked in the future, you will be sitting pretty, knowing you created a unique password for that gaming account, so your other accounts won’t be in danger of being compromised by reused passwords.
Enable multi-factor authentication on your account. MFA secures your account by ensuring hackers need something you have (such as a hardware token or cell phone) or something you are (such as your fingerprint) in addition to something you know (such as a password), to access your account details.
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