19 Aug 2011

Games others play

Author: will | Filed under: FaceBook, google, identity theft, information loss, LBC, privacy, programming, social network, technology

Google + introduced games (possibly to compete with Facebook games and apps) and they messed up.

Trust is not something you give freely and still expect to survive. I hate it when it appears that my trust in someone or something is being abused. That potential abuse is abundant in Facebook games.

watching robot

Harsh, I know, but when you give your trust to any Facebook app, including games, you are granting them permissions to pull in your details, write to your wall, hover up your friends list and so on. While Facebook application developers can limit what they have access to, you can create a fully evil application that copies everything from your Facebook account, including private information.

I’m being particularly harsh on Facebook at the moment as I discovered that their Facebook app for Android did not take the contact details my friends on Facebook had publically posted (or granted to their friends) and copy them to my handset, but it copied my entire mobile phone contact list off my handset and uploaded them to Facebook. I never put my phone number in Facebook, and it copied it from my phone and made it public.  The iPhone version does something similar.

Google + rolled out their games… their attempt at competing with the highly popular Facebook games. And they did some things right.

Firstly, if someone plays  game, their “achievements” don’t appear in your main stream of news, but they appear only in a separate games notification page. This page only shows up if yo want to play a game.

This is useful purely because it stops the people in your circles, who don’t play the games, being annoyed by your updates. I for one block games notifications when they crop up in Facebook, after all, since I don’t trust the Facebook games I’m not about to play them.

However when I start to play any of the Google + games I get a pop-up window asking for permissions.

  • View basic information about your account
    • View your name, public profile URL and photo. View your gender and date of birth. View your country, language and time zone.
  • View a list of people from your circles, ordered based on your interactions with them across Google
    • View a list of people from your circles that you may want to engage with
    • The list is ordered based on your interactions with these people across Google
    • View public profile information for these people

Some of the games also want your e-mail address. That’s a lot of information just to try out a game!

I have issues with this list. Social gaming is sometimes akin to nagware. Nagware was a nickname for free software that kept displaying a message, or advert, before you could play unless you paid for the game (and entered a “stop nagging” code). The difference is that, for many games, you nag your friends with how well you are doing. Sorry, that might be “friends” if you nag them too much.

I can understand a game wanting my name, Google + public profile URL and photo. This stuff is public, and there are probably access reasons they want it for. I can forgive it asking for my gender as its part of the public suite too. My date of birth should only be an issue if I am playing “adult” games, games related to controlled substances (I’m talking about legal drinking age) and gambling. Given the legal limits are different in each country they’ll need the country too. For localization reasons they may want my language preference (if over 50% of the players speak German, do the German version first).

I can’t figure out why they want my time zone.

Actually the “basic information about your account” details aren’t that worrysome.

I object to them wanting to harvest my friends at the start!

Wouldn’t a better option be, ask about me, and only me. Be able to add custom information to the permissions notice. The android apps allow this, and knowing “why” something wants access makes it more acceptable. (Of course they might lie *cough* Facebook sucking my phone book out of my phone *cough*).

Let me try the game. And if I want to get past a certain level, I have the option of leaving or sharing. Its sort of similar to the way arcade games work on Xbox Live. You download a trial and you can only get to the first (or another arbitrary) level. If you want to go further you have to buy the game. Also, only people who have bought the game can share their high scores. I’m sure the download statistics (and maybe some profile information) is shared with the games developers. Something like numbers of bought without trailing, trial downloads and purchases after the trial along with basic demographics.I suspect they also get level information, as in what point you stopped playing the game.

In this case, they get some of my information (some, just the public stuff, if there isn’t a reason for an age limit then they don’t need to know where I am and my age. They may have a good reason to know my language so I’ll grant that one) and is I want to play past the first level / screen / puzzle then I have to grant more permissions.

By then they have earned a bit more of my trust. And lost some of my animosity.

This is a Loose Bloggers Consortium post on the theme of “Animosity”; chosen by Padmini. To find out that the others in the consortium think, check out, Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie 11, Noor, Padmini, Ramana, Rohit, The Silver Fox Whispers, The Student Diaries and joining us this week for the very first time are Nema, Paul & Plain Joe.

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8 Responses to “Games others play”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    I am neither a ‘gamer’ or fond of FaceBook, yet I found this article very interesting. Thanks Will for all the info.

  2. will Says:

    We’ll get you on plus yet GM. Oh before anyone asks for an invite, go to profiles.google.com and set yourself up first.

  3. aafke Says:

    Similar to Grannymar, not a gamer, not an avid facebook reader (nor writer) yet i arrived here from G+ and i thank you for the interesting info. Makes me wonder again how public anybody’s ‘privacy’ is.

  4. blackwatertown Says:

    No Facebook games ever – not for security reasons – though that’s bad enough – but because I’d never ever get anything done ever again.

  5. will Says:

    Aafke, assume that if its on any social network, its public.

    BlackwaterTown, to quote from “Wargames”, would you like to play a game?

  6. Rummuser Says:

    Will, the only game that will interest me is the universal old real life chase that all reprobates like me indulge in. But I will confess that I learnt a trick or two from your post. I am particularly charmed at your losing some of your animosity.

  7. gaelikaa Says:

    I was just reading an article in the Reader’s Digest today about how one’s privacy ils compromised in today’s computerized world. Well, I generally don’t do anything in private that I wouldn’t do in public, so I’m not worried as such.

    I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. My precious computer time is usually for studying, writing and keeping in touch. I have no time for games.

    My LBC post is up, albeit 24 hours late. You are most welcome to come and view it, if time and space allows.


  8. Val Says:

    I left Facebook because of the privacy issues. I’ve been wondering about joining Google plus but from the few things I’ve read about it, it doesn’t sound very much better.

    As for games… never did get into the type that people play on Facebook. I like the short and ‘weird’ games like Samorost.

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