Using Gaming To Drive Desired Behavior: Privacy Policy As A Game

from the pros-and-cons dept

I had just been listening to a recent On the Media rebroadcast of their episode all about video games. The episode is fantastic, but the part that I found most fascinating was during the final section on the future of gaming, which includes a wonderful clip from a presentation by Jesse Schell, in which he talks about the potential to “gamify” pretty much everything in life, giving people “points” (possibly points that can have tax implications) for desired behavior. Some of that behavior may be “desired” because it’s good for you (if you brush your teeth long enough, you get extra points). And some of it may be “desired” because it’s good for some companies (if you drink five Dr. Peppers this week, you get extra points).

JESSE SCHELL: And what will that world be like? Well, I think it’ll be like this: You get up in the morning to brush your teeth and the toothbrush can sense that you?re brushing your teeth, and so, hey [BELL TONE], good job for you! [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] Ten points for brushing your teeth. And it can measure how long, and you?re supposed to brush ?em for three minutes, and you did. And so you get a bonus for that. Hey [BELL TONE], you brushed your teeth every day this week, another bonus. All right, and who cares? The toothpaste company, the toothbrush company; the more you brush, the more toothpaste you use. They have a vested financial interest. So then you go and you get on the bus. The bus, why am I taking the bus? You?re taking the bus because the government has started giving out [BELL TONE] all kinds of bonus points to people who use public transportation, and you can use these points for, for tax incentives. And you get to work [BELL TONE] on time, good job. You, you get a, a special bonus. So then you go to lunch and you’ve had Dr. Peppers all week, and so you know you got to have another Dr. Pepper ?cause you get 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points, and then you’ll have another one [BELL TONE]. You know there?s a special with Dr. Pepper this week. If you have five Dr. Peppers in a week [BELL TONE], 500 bonus points, so you definitely have to take advantage of that.

And then you’ve got a meeting at another building that?s a half a mile away. And you could take the shuttle over but you decide, I’m gonna walk because the health insurance plan that you?re on [BELL TONE] gives you bonus points if you walk like more than a mile each day, and we can sense that easily, you know, through your digital shoes. And if you get your heart rate up [BELL TONE] above a certain, a certain amount, then you get more bonus points from your health insurance company. So then you?re going shopping on the way home, and man, this is like a place you can get a lot of points, and it?s really complicated so you let your like your app figure it out. It like looks at all the point systems you have, it looks at what you want and then it tells you which ones to buy [BELL TONE] in order to get, ooh, wow, a lot of points, just because I make good choices shopping. And then you get home and your daughter?s like, oh, I got my report card. And you?re like [BELL TONE] oh, good job. I mean, you?re getting 2,000 points from the state for getting? such good grades, and [BELL TONE] [LAUGHS] you?re getting 5,000 as a parent from the Obama bonus for the good parenting bonus, which you?re excited ?cause you can use that as tax relief. And then you say, hey, wait a minute, wait a minute, did you practice your piano? And she?s like, yeah, I practiced my piano. Well, what score did you get? It?s like, oh, well, I got 150,000. A hundred and fifty thousand, that?s the best you’ve ever had on that particular [BELL TONE] sonata. That?s 9,000 points given by the Arts Council for your scholarship fund, so go you. Right?

Obviously, some of those things may strike some people as “good” and some may strike some people as “bad.” But either way, understanding the likelihood of these things coming about is important, and you can see the full (extremely entertaining) video below.

In the opening of the video, before he gets into all the stuff above, he talks about Facebook accounts, and things like Farmville, from Zynga, which he describes as “scary.” Well, perhaps the scary folks at Zynga watched the video too, and at least thought a little about it in relation to privacy policies. That’s because Zynga has revamped their privacy policy to make it a game, called PrivacyVille. Now, I’m on record as saying I think the entire idea of a privacy policy is a failed concept. No one reads them. No one understands that the privacy policy could say “we don’t care at all about your privacy.” Even those who read them don’t know what they mean. It’s a joke that makes some “privacy experts” feel good to say that sites need privacy policies.

But, this gets a bit more intriguing, when a company actually tries to give people incentive to not just read, but to understand a privacy policy. I don’t think that others will suddenly “gamify” their own privacy policies, but I’m definitely intrigued by the concept of doing something very different with a privacy policy, rather than just what everyone else does.

Update: Or, as pointed out in the comments, it could all end up like this comic….

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Companies: zynga

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Comments on “Using Gaming To Drive Desired Behavior: Privacy Policy As A Game”

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Robert Doyle (profile) says:

I think it is brilliant... now...

…if only they could actually make it meaningful.

The idea of a game concept for instructing consumers as to the content of what they are agreeing to is a wonderful thing to see in a company in my opinion. I have often thought that leading people to understand the choices they are making is as rewarding for the leader as it is for the follower.

I?m someone who actually takes the time to read through the fine print on contracts I sign, and I have read the privacy policies of most of the companies whose products I purchase, but even I am not going to read Apple$ T&C for the 18th time to play ?spot the difference? in their 80 page document.

A company that would actually describe, in layman?s terms, what each section means, would certainly inspire me to have confidence in their product and how I feel they will treat me should something happen with their product.

I?m fortunate enough in that I understand about 80% of the legalese, but it takes a contract-specialist to completely understand all of it.

I still think this is a nice step in the right direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I think it is brilliant... now...

It would help if they would have a revision date or other version identifier, and it would help even more if they would highlight what changed since the previous version. That way you would theoretically give it a detailed reading when you first sign up, then only have to reread if there is a newer revision.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Social engineering

The big problem with social engineering is you start focusing on behaviours and not results. Brushing your teeth isn’t the goal, no cavities is. Walking isn’t the goal, cardiovascular health is. Economic incentives need to be results orientated.

In any case, it is scary because policy makers are notoriously idiotic when creating incentives (just look at Ban Fransisco). Just make sure the consequences are swift and expensive, and the free market will sort all this out.

KeillRandor (profile) says:

Game theory...

The problem with all this, in the grand scheme of things, is that this isn’t specifically about ‘games’ at all.

It’s about competition, and the application of game theory ‘game’ theory to use competition to promote certain behaviour.

Game is merely word that represents a certain APPLICATION of competitive behaviour – but without being consistent with the application itself – it’s no longer a game.

Games, puzzles, and competitionS are all competitive activities – and the application of game theory that we’re talking about here, does not make the distinction between them. Game theory – is really about the mathematical study and modelling of structured competitive behaviour – but without being consistent with all of those elements, it’s not really a game.

This is, of course, what you’re all complaining about – in a more abstract way – by focusing merely on the competition, and leaving the actual reasons for the behaviour that it’s trying to enable, and therefore most of the structure, it’s not really going to be a game at all – merely a competition – (competing to be told whether or not you’ve won or lost).

Games are about people competing in structured environment by doing something for themselves – the end result of such a process has nothing to do with it’s definition or recognition as such.

(Click my name for my blog about all this).

Angry Puppy (profile) says:

It's Already Here

The “gaming” concept is already upon us. Credit card and retail companies provide points for use and making particular purchases. In Canada monthly or yearly bus pass fees are totally deductible from taxable income to encourage mass transit use.

It’s human nature, generally, to not suffer short term pain for long term gain. Using a game based strategy to provide immediate incentive in order to gain future benefits could be a viable social engineering methodology. So far prison, going to hell, the death penalty, excommunication, and warnings of future disease/environmental disaster/water shortage/food shortage/economic collapse don’t seem to sway behavior to any great extent.

The past (and still existing) banking system that almost brought down the entire World’s economy (and still might) is due to only looking for short term gains over any far off benefits. If the system only rewarded adherence to regulatory rules and policies the problems may be solved.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Now, I’m on record as saying I think the entire idea of a privacy policy is a failed concept. No one reads them. No one understands that the privacy policy could say “we don’t care at all about your privacy.” “

I disagree, to some extent. I think no one reads privacy policies because we all understand all too well that the companies don’t care about our privacy. Those documents are almost invariably just a bunch of legalese that says they own everything and we have no rights at all.

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