Why game developers want your data
If you are playing an Activision game and using other software on your gaming device at the same time, 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) produces complaints from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II players in relation to 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 okay with that kind of in-game observation by the company.
How game companies collect and lose your personal data
I have less issues with game companies monitoring player activity and more with the amount of data the companies have to keep about their players. The more player information companies keep, the more data hackers can steal during unavoidable data breach incidents.
Earlier this year, a criminal violated the Neopets database, potentially exposing payment and personal information related to nearly 70 million accounts. In a statement, the Neopets (Opens in a new window)website confirmed the hack and informed users that the stolen information could contain: “…data provided when registering for or playing Neopetsincluding 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 the privacy policies of top game developers. TechRobot found that more than half of the online game developers surveyed in the study retain data about who gamers play with, and nearly 90% of game companies collect information obtained from in-game chats.
Riot collects a lot of personal information, and it’s exactly the kind of thing bad actors want when hatching their identity theft plans. In the wake of a data breach, criminals can easily combine all those different pieces of personally identifiable information to create a victim profile. The scammers then use these data profiles to impersonate their victims and open lines of credit in their name or create fake social media profiles that are used to scam the people on 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, hiding your geographic location and changing your DNS information. Keep in mind that some games prohibit players from using VPN for location-locked release dates or region-locked in-game items. Since latency and speed can be affected by using them, we’ve put together a list of the best VPNs for gaming.
Use a password manager to create and save your game account credentials. When the game company’s servers get hacked in the future, you’ll be fine knowing that you’ve created a unique password for that game account so that your other accounts aren’t at risk of being compromised by reused passwords.
Enable multi-factor authentication on your account. MFA secures your account by making sure that hackers need something you have (like a hardware token or mobile phone) or something you are (like your fingerprint) in addition to something you know (like a password), to gain access to your account information.
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