Google is profiling online gamers

By EDRi · May 23, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Google has filed a patent in Europe and in US on a profiling technology
planning to create psychological profiles of web users based on their
behaviour at playing on-line games. The company thinks it can gather up
information to shape the personality of web users according to the way they
react and take decisions while playing online and then sell these
psychological profiles to advertisers.

The patent says: “User dialogue (e.g. from role playing games, simulation
games, etc) may be used to characterize the user (e.g. literate, profane,
blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterize the
user (e.g. cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy,
honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc).”

On the basis of these profiles, adverts inside online games could be shaped
to address the people’s interests, tastes and tendencies. Adverts that
appear inside the game could thus be more “relevant to the user”, Google

The patent says that information from previously saved games could be
accessed from memory cards. “Such saved information may be thought of state
information, and offers a valuable source of information to the advertisers”
and also that Google could also monitor people playing on any game console
that connects to the internet, including the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii
and Microsoft’s Xbox.

These plans have created concerns for privacy campaigners, who consider that
the implications of compiling and storing such detailed information are

Sue Charman the Open Rights Group said: “I can understand why they are
interested in this, but I would be deeply disturbed by a company holding a
psychological profile. Whenever you have large amounts of information it
becomes attractive to people – we’ve already seen the American federal
government going to court over data from companies including Google.”

The patent gives alarming examples of the invasive type of approach the
advertisers could use, such as: “In a car racing game, after a user
crashes his Honda Civic, an announcer could be used to advertise by saying
‘if he had a Hummer, he would have gotten the better of that altercation’,
etc. If the user has been playing for over two hours continuously, the
system may display ads for Pizza Hut, Coke, coffee.”

The experts say that although such scanning is already done by some web
companies that use keywords for online advertising based on basic
attributes, such kind of complete profiles viewed by the Google patent would
go much further in combining information sources to put names and addresses
to the anonymous profiles.

Google stated to The Guardian that it had no plan in the next future
regarding this patent and that this was only one of the large number of
patents filed during the last months by the company. “Google registers
different patents irrespective of whether we actually intend to use them”
was Google spokesman’s statement.

Google may use games to analyse net users (12.05.2007),,2078061,00.html

Google Patents Gamer Profiling Technology (14.05.2007)

Google Plans to Secretly Track Your Online Gaming (12.05.2007)

Google’s online gaming patent alarms privacy advocates (14.05.2007)