4 ways to protect your privacy while playing online games

4 ways to protect your privacy while playing online games

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II open beta kicked off this weekend, and players are giving their first impressions of game mechanics via social media(Opens in a new window), the company that publishes the game, Activision, collects their data and uses it to sell products. It is not a big secret, since the company describes guidelines for data collection and storage in the privacy policy(Opens in a new window).

Activision’s privacy document is extensive, but is written in a way that is easy to understand and includes links to help users opt out of their targeted mobile advertising program. In the past, I have asked readers to check the privacy policy before using mobile apps. Here, I tell online gamers the steps they should take to keep their data private while gaming.


Why game developers want your data

As noted by authors from the Brookings Institution in an article examining computer-driven video game design(Opens in a new window), today’s gaming companies collect a lot of data about their players to improve the gaming experience for everyone. As for Activision, the company notes in its privacy policy that players should expect monitoring when it comes to in-game chats or voice communications, as these may be monitored for anti-cheat, anti-fraud and anti-toxicity purposes. .

If you play an Activision game and run other software on your gaming device at the same time, Activision may monitor and record your activity. My initial reaction to this type of tracking was negative. But, a quick Twitter search(Opens in a new window) gives 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 a fair and fun gaming experience, so I’m fine with that kind of in-game monitoring from the company.

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How gaming companies collect and lose your personal information

I have less problems with the monitoring of player activity by game companies and more concern about the amount of data companies keep about their players. The more player information companies retain, the more data there is for hackers to steal during inevitable data breaches.

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Earlier this year, a criminal broke Neopets database, potentially exposing payment and personal information linked to nearly 70 million accounts. In a statement says Neopets (Opens in a new window)the website confirmed the hack and informed users that the information stolen may include the following: “…data provided during registration or gameplay Neopetsincluding name, email address, username, date of birth, gender, IP address, Neopets PIN code, hashed password, as well as data about a player’s pet, gameplay and other information provided to Neopets.”

The website TechRobot recently published a report(Opens in a new window) analyzes the privacy policies of the top game developers. TechRobot found that over half of online game developers surveyed in the study retain data about who players play with, and nearly 90% of game companies collect information derived from in-game chats.

The most egregious data collector in TechRobot’s report is Riot Games, the company behind the wildly popular free-to-play title League of Legends. Riot Games last reported a data breach back in 2013, when approximately 120,000 transaction records were accessed. I looked at the game’s privacy policy(Opens in a new window) and confirmed that Riot Games automatically collects information such as a player’s IP address, geographic location, ISP and chat logs. Riot also collects any information players voluntarily provide, such as demographic information, hobbies, favorite games, and contact lists.

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Riot collects a lot of personal information, and that’s exactly the kind of thing bad actors want when hatching identity theft. In the wake of a data breach, it is easy for criminals to combine all the various 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 that are used to trick the people in their contact lists.


How to protect your data when playing online games

Below are some ways you can reduce your online data footprint while still playing the games you love:

  1. Unlink your social media accounts. Many gaming companies, including the ones I’ve mentioned above, monitor all in-game communications, which sometimes extends to social media posts. For example, according to their privacy policy, Riot Games collects social data from users who link their Facebook accounts to their Riot Games accounts.

  2. Use a VPN while playing. A VPN is a privacy tool that can hide your IP address, thereby hiding your geographic location and changing your DNS information. Keep in mind 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 compiled a list of the best VPNs for gaming.

  3. Use a password manager to create and store your game account login information. When your gaming company’s servers are hacked in the future, you’ll sit back knowing you’ve created a unique password for that gaming account so your other accounts aren’t at risk of being compromised by reused passwords.

  4. Enable multi-factor authentication on your account. MFA secures your account by ensuring that hackers need something you have (such as a hardware token or mobile 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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What else is happening in the security world this week?

This malware can infect your PC with over 20 malicious programs. The NullMixer malware can download a large number of Trojans to a PC at once, according to antivirus vendor Kaspersky.

British police may have arrested hacker behind GTA 6 leak. Police in London say they have arrested a 17-year-old suspected of hacking crimes.

Twitter: Our password reset feature failed to log users out of devices. The now-fixed problem is due to a bug that was accidentally introduced last year.

Meta sued for tracking iOS users even if they’ve opted out. The lawsuit also alleges that the Facebook app violates state and federal laws.

Use the Google app to request the removal of search results containing personal information. Removal of search results can now be requested via Google’s Android app for some users.

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