Playing video games used to be so simple. Back in the day, all you had to do was power up your Gameboy or your PlayStation and enjoy a range of so-called “dumb” games without any sort of Internet connectivity or smart integration. And while the arrival of the Internet in this equation has had some positive effects (especially when it comes to multiplayer gaming and the capacity to save your progress in the cloud so that you can), it’s also the case that there are also downsides – like the harvesting of data. With even games companies and other recreational providers in on the act of data harvesting, then, how can you defend yourself and your privacy?
Pick your data type
When it comes to the crunch, all sorts of websites and web-based services are collecting data. Often, what a user has to do is decide how important protecting themselves against each diverse data type is – and then use that to inform their gaming choices. If you play free games, for example, it’s probable that there will be a lot of advertising data about you out on the web, as that will be how the game provider makes its money. If you pay to play, meanwhile, you will, of course, have credit or debit card data associated with your online habits such as your browsing history – which could make you very vulnerable to scammers.
Choosing the cryptocurrency route
If you enjoy playing some online gambling games from time to time you’ll know that the provider is almost certainly monitoring your activity. For a start, being a gambler is in itself a sensitive data point: while there is no shame associated with choosing to have a legal flutter from time to time, there can be cultural and social norms around gambling which some people may prefer not to share too widely. And add to that the often large sums of cash which can move from place to place as a result of funding a gambling account, and it’s clear to see how a gambler may want to preserve their anonymity as much as they can.
One radical option is to move away from the traditional model of putting down amounts of cash in order to activate a gambling game and to instead go for cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrencies are usually entered decentralised, which means that they are much harder to trace than traditional – or “fiat” – currencies. They also record transactions made in relation to them using a decentralised ledger, so it’s not possible for a single central authority to zoom in, take over – and pick up your data. Ethereum and bitcoin gambling has become more common in recent years, and it’s likely that you’ll be able to find a crypto-fuelled casino which meets your specific needs.
Exercise common sense
Finally, it’s also worth noting that it might be possible to lower your data security breach risk if you ensure that you exercise common sense. On some occasions, fraud and scams can be almost entirely prevented by simply ensuring that you always input your information into legitimate and correct forms rather than ones that you have clicked on from potentially fraudulent emails, and so on.
While in some cases gaming fraud can be carried out to sophisticated extents by fraudsters that are very canny, it does pay to be savvy to avoid being caught out. Always look to see the original email address of the sender of any email you receive asking you to log in, for example – and remember that it is very uncommon for any legitimate gaming company to request from you your personal financial information. If you do receive an email which pertains to be from a legitimate gaming company but which you are sure is a scam, it’s worth reporting it both to the gaming company in question and also to an external authority such as Action Fraud. That way, you’ll be doing your bit to ensure that others do not suffer from fraud in the future.
As this article has shown, it’s impossible to fully defend yourself from incursions on your privacy and security when it comes to playing games online. While there are some significant steps you can take to vastly reduce the risk of data harvesting, like deciding to gamble with cryptocurrencies or using a fake name to sign up to some of the non-financial games out there, it’s still the case that you’ll experience some sort of data collection from time to time.