Canada's Privacy Commissioner Tells Us How to Safely Play Multiplayer Videogames

by Knowlton Thomas

This week is Media Literacy Week.

As part of the event, Canada's Privacy Commissioner has released guidelines to protect Canadians while they play videogames—primarily multiplayer ones, where real-life danger is always lurking.

This year's Media Literacy Week has a theme of "Privacy Matters," which couldn't be more appropriate. Canadians have a lot of concerns over their private data as government grapples with behemoths like Google and Facebook over how consumers' personal information can be collected, stored, and sold.

"As gaming consoles are now onramps to the Internet, we need to recognize that, like anything else that brings together personal information and connectivity, there are privacy issues at play," said Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. "Interactive gaming accounts are increasingly becoming linked to social networks while videogames today are also avenues for advertisers to youth."

Jennifer's guidance documents can be found in full here, but below are a few bullet points on playing videogames safely:

• Given that personal information is part of many gaming profiles, it is best to use strong passwords (for example, capital and small letters, numbers and symbols where applicable);

• As most user accounts require credit card information, players should check their statements regularly and contact the gaming company or console service immediately if there are transactions they are unsure about;

• When consoles or individual games offer detailed privacy controls, users should examine them closely and choose wisely. For example, users may opt to restrict profile visibility only to players who they actually know in real life;

• While many gaming networks now enable gamers to tie their gaming accounts to social networking sites, players should read the associated privacy policies and user agreements to find out what will be shared with whom; and

• As many multiplayer games allow text and voice chatting between players, users should adjust their privacy settings to block other gamers who might be abusive while taking advantage of systems that invite players to report incidents directly to gaming networks in order to help curb online harassment.

Now most of this may be pretty obvious to you. And that's good. But not everyone is quite so clued in. So these rather simple suggestions are actually pretty important to have out there.

"While it's clear that it's not only kids who play videogames these days, we can't lose sight of the fact that many children are gaming and that they are among the most vulnerable to potential privacy abuse," added Commissioner Stoddart. "As a result, we encourage parents to play with their kids so they can learn more about the virtual world's realities."

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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