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Europe Data Protection Digest | Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, 13 January 2017 Related reading: Australia and Chinese Taipei join APEC's Cross-Border Privacy Rules System

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Greetings from Brussels!

I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination; if anything, the complete opposite. Those of you who have children, particularly teenagers, will understand the cycle of parental angst of having to cope with digital dependencies — and demand — in the home. "Everything in moderation," I hear some of you say, and, true enough, as parents we too fall foul of the digital wave sometimes, spending inordinate amounts of time interacting with our mobile devices.

So, I try to be Aristotelian, stoic, and pragmatic about the whole thing.

Recently, however, I have found myself playing an online interactive game called DATAK, created by Radio Television Switzerland, to raise public awareness around privacy and data protection. Launched in December, RTS developed the educational game with the aim of exposing the players to how personal data is used, as well as to the associated risks. The interactive game, which is available in English, French, German and Italian, is the culmination of the participatory RTS investigation "Donnez-moi mes données!" ("Give me my data!"), with the active participation of the public, launched in June 2015. The game presents the results of the 18-month long investigation in a fun way, and raises awareness of the implications of big data.

The game was developed in collaboration with a team of young developers out of Bulle, in Switzerland, with the support of youth and media platforms of the Swiss Federal Social Insurance Office. Intentionally aimed at anyone aged 15 or over, to appeal to a broad audience, the game brings to life the main themes of the RTS investigation, which were social media, government surveillance, commerce and health. (If you're really into this kind of thing, check out Data Dealer, too.)

So how does DATAK work? Players assume the role of a recent recruit hired to work for the mayor of a town, to manage their social media services, and are confronted with various dilemmas in their working day-to-day lives. There are decisions to be made in given privacy scenarios (in their private lives as well as for the town community) against the clock, and interspersed with videos from YouTubers and relevant factual data based on scenarios and decisions taken. Some of the specific tasks undertaken by the new recruit are, for example, whether or not to approve a project to install CCTV cameras in town, or to pass on citizens’ details to companies or political parties. Once a project is completed, the actual investigation result can be accessed as well as a trove of useful tips on how to manage personal data.

Since its recent launch, the game has grown in popularity; speaking to Julien Schekter, the RTS producer behind the idea, I found the figures quite impressive. Ironically, in a bid to protect user privacy, RTS has been using an open source web analytics that respects “Do Not Track” browser settings, so the exact figures are not known. However, there have been at least 18,000 players to date, although Julien estimates that this figure could be as high as 25,000.

Notions of privacy and data protection might not always be simple to articulate to the public at large, nor are they necessarily the most exciting theme to promote among the younger citizens. DATAK tackles these challenges head on and successfully. RTS is now looking to have the game approved by the educational authorities in Switzerland so that teachers in the classrooms might deploy it.

The game is also getting some good exposure and media publicity outside Switzerland, in both Belgium and France, which is merited. On balance, this is a fresh and mainstream channel for bringing privacy awareness to the citizens. Curiosity got the better of me, and I was pleasantly surprised. Give it a try. If you’re a privacy pro, this might just be the ticket, in between meetings or in the airport lounge.   

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