Google has filed a patent outlining new plans to compile detailed psychological profiles of gamers by monitoring their online game use on PCs and consoles, without their knowing, then selling this information to in-game advertising companies, it was revealed today.
Such psychological profiling can be employed to outline to potential advertisers whether a person is more inclined to be aggressive, hostile or dishonest.
You may remember that Google spent $23m (£11.5m) recently acquiring in-game advertising company AdScape.
The patent names PC games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft and also refers to Sony’s PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360.
It clearly states that: "User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterise the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterise the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc)."
The patent also states, in a Bladerunner-esque vein: "In a car racing game, after a user crashes his Honda Civic, an announcer could be used to advertise by saying 'if he had a Hummer, he would have gotten the better of that altercation', etc… If the user has been playing for over two hours continuously, the system may display ads for Pizza Hut, Coke, coffee."
Useful information could be obtained from from previous game details saved on memory cards: "Such saved information may be thought of state information, and offers a valuable source of information to the advertisers."
It also details specific ways in which advertisers might make use of the psychological profiles – players who like exploring might want more “ads for vacations”, players who like talking might see more ads for phones, and so on.
Sue Charman of online campaign Open Rights Group says of the patent, "I can understand why they are interested in this, but I would be deeply disturbed by a company holding a psychological profile.”
The booming in-game advertising market is currently worth around $500m (£250m) a year and is estimated to rapidly increase over the next three years to $2bn (£1000m) a year by 2010.
In-game ad company IGA’s chief exec Justin Townsend says that, “Consumers, publishers and the advertising industry are very aware of privacy issues…You cannot afford to be vague in these areas."
For further background, you can see SPOnG’s recent IGA interview here.
Rest assured we will be speaking to IGA and others from the in-game advertising industry, over the coming days to poll their responses to today’s news.
A spokesperson for Google has told the UK’s Guardian newspaper today that, "Google registers different patents irrespective of whether we actually intend to use them."
Let us know in the forum below your thoughts on the matter.source: The Guardian