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Privacy Commissioner Issues New Videogame Guidance

As part of Media Literacy Week 2012, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart released new guidance to help Canadians of all ages protect their privacy while playing interactive multiplayer videogames.

The theme of this year’s Media Literacy Week, organized by a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy Media Smarts is “Privacy Matters,” and Commissioner Stoddart took the opportunity to underline that the days of kids playing videogames alone or with friends on the old TV in the basement are largely over.

“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 Stoddart. “Interactive gaming accounts are increasingly  becoming linked to social networks while videogames today are also avenues for advertisers to youth.”

The complete guidance, which can be found online at www.priv.gc.ca/videogames includes the following tips to protect privacy while at play:

  • 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.