Google Plans to Secretly Track Your Online Gaming

Privacy campaigners alarmed at new psychological profiling patent

Posted by Staff
Google Plans to Secretly Track Your Online Gaming
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

Comments

ralahinn1 12 May 2007 15:03
1/5
That kind of sucks, but one can see why a company would want that information. I hope you can use a proxy to get around that
Joji 14 May 2007 13:29
2/5
The rise of the google. Funny how it all started out so innocent, no we are being profiled secretly.

Some one pass the new gestapo a black trench coat, hat and specs.
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ilh 14 May 2007 18:19
3/5
Safe to say Google just dropped in my books, can't stand marketeers, almost as bad as health and safety people.
duke 14 May 2007 18:42
4/5
It is known that Google keep your emails and track history of people in theyr web searching service.
It is used to sell it to big store companies and internet companies who buy that information in order to send you propaganda.
Thats why I rarely use Google.
milliput 14 May 2007 20:26
5/5
duke wrote:
It is known that Google keep your emails and track history of people in theyr web searching service.
It is used to sell it to big store companies and internet companies who buy that information in order to send you propaganda.
Thats why I rarely use Google.


you're like one of those ideiot that thinks browser cookies are evil.

google doesn't sell your information to third-parties. what they does is give companies the option to buy targetted advertising space - the advertiser buys keywords (say "fireworks") - so if you search google for "fireworks" or view a web page (with google ads) about fireworks or a gmail email with the word "fireworks" in it - then their ad has a chance of appearing.

that's a lot different from google "selling" your details to other companies.

infact, 1. google doesn't necessarily even know you are and 2. cannot sell that info without your agreement (data protection act in the UK)
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