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The day after the day after

Online since 2 days: Evil Heisenbugs infest Data Dealer Beta

Quick update: We have now reached around 250 active games, and have sadly also come across several bugs in the last couple of days. 20 of them are minor, 5 are medium, and one is a real biggie: Some users are unable to finish missions, they cannot progress in the game and are consequently stuck. We call these occurrences „Heisenbugs“ because we have not yet been able to reproduce them. As soon as we look, they disappear. Very annoying!

Many THX for all the enthusiastic help from the affected users in hunting out the bugs & apologies to everyone else. This only affects 20 out of 250 users, but it’s very complex stuff and as long as we don’t understand what is happening in our database (our REAL database) and manage to fix it, we have to postpone sending out any further invites.

Sorrysorry, since the Beta went online we’ve been working non-stop on support and debugging, and with a couple hundred users more our inboxes and task lists would explode...we’ll let you know as soon as we fixed this issue, and for the time being ask for your understanding.

All Data Dealer Beta - all background info here.


Finally: Data Dealer Closed Beta!

It wasn’t easy, but it is done. The beta version of Data Dealer! Yeah.

It’s taken us almost a year of hard work, and it’s finally ready. It wasn’t easy, but it is done: Following the rather decent international response to our English demo (released May 2013) and our successful Kickstarter campaign during June, we are proud to present a first Beta of the full version of Data Dealer! Hooray.

Data Dealer Closed Beta

For now the game will run in a semi-public test mode – accessible only to limited number of people. As soon as we feel everything’s running smoothly we’ll open the game to the world. Until then, you will need an Invite Link to gain access.

We will continue working on Data Dealer in Beta mode, but decided that we no longer want to deprive you of experiencing the current state of the game – and look forward to your support during the next phase!

Here’s some background info on the beta, including: What’s new? How can I get an Invite Link? And a short FAQ.

Data Dealer Closed Beta


Gameplay vs. Education vs. Reality – Work in Progress!

A response to Christian Sandvig's extensive but harsh comment on Data Dealer

Thanks for your extensive feedback, also for all the positive points you made. You're one of the first reviewers to take such a close look at our game design and you've mentioned many things we've been discussing intensely since we started the development of Data Dealer back in 2011.

In general we didn't want to develop a complex data mining simulation game which offers a 100% accurate representation of today's personal data ecosystem. We had to simplify things to achieve what we wanted to achieve: Creating an easily accessible, casual game – which will attract people who didn't previously engage in issues of personal data and privacy so much. This translation of our topic into a simple, casual game design was one of the hardest parts during development. We repeatedly had days and weeks of discussion about these issues and we've changed some concepts several times. Besides being a small nonprofit group who started to develop this game without any money (and alongside our jobs) this is one of the main reasons it took us such a long time to develop it.

I. Demo vs. full version

I believe some of your acute critique is very true for our demo version, but not for the full version we're planning to finish in the next months:

  • The selection of data sources, attributes and clients in the demo version is FAR from perfect, yes. For the demo we just put in some of the many ideas we had collected. This also explains why some aspects are over-emphasized, others under-emphasized, others completely missing. In the full version (it's already 80% finished) you'll have more than 100 database attributes, and of course credit card information as well as browser cookies will be included. And there will be much more variation in the kinds of companies and online ventures you'll be able to run as a player, e.g. public records crawlers, phone surveys, product registration cards, smartphone apps, self tracking apps and of course your own Smoogle, Tracebook and online advertising networks! And there will be many more kinds of clients as well.
  • You' wrote that algorithms are not being covered at all in our game and mentioned the "absence of any depiction of the combination of disparate data to produce new insights or situations". And you're right, this is completely missing in the demo. But the good news is: It's already included in the current internal development version! There will be different ways of combining attributes. A very simple example: You'll be able to increase the amount of age and gender information by "analyzing" your profile's first names. There will be "summary" attributes (e.g. combining all kinds of identity information or summarizing all kinds of friends/network information) and score attributes (not only credit score, but also health score and so on). To refer to your "political attitudes" example: In the full version you'll collect the books people are buying and aggregate this information to create a "political attitudes" attribute in your database. In the full version it will be possible to "play" the database.
  • In the full version there will be several more ways to get into hot water as a player when acting too carelessly: Privacy regulations, whistle blowers (ehm) and more. And many additional ways to respond to those incidents as a player. You wrote: "It even feels like the makers of Data Dealer are trying to demean themselves". I believe that this ironic turnaround of blaming privacy advocates in our game could be experienced quite differently.

II. The Data Dealer's underground economy

You criticized the "criminal underworld" part of our game. You wrote that no legitimate data mining company would use personal data from sources like that. First, some of them certainly do. In Austria we recently had a case where a very small consumer data agency had systematically paid money to people working at court to make them hand over the data of bankrupted people. The small agency sold this information to a bigger, more serious agency. The boss of the small agency was convicted, the bigger one not. Or let's take for example Choicepoint (now: "Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions"): They've bought so many data collections and whole companies (including their data collections), nobody exactly knows where all their data is from. It's not transparent at all.

But that's not the main point. What we want to show by putting data sources like "Uncle Enzo" (refers to the Sony Playstation online network hack 2 years ago) into our game: Everywhere massive amounts of data are stored, there exists a risk of abuse. On the one hand personal data is abused (semi-)legally by companies or governments, on the other hand there is the risk of abuse through negligence, security holes, disloyal employees, or hacks. So, what could be the motivations for people to abuse personal data? How does social engineering work? But this part won't be as important in the final version.

III. What else?

Moreover you criticized that we included things like celebrity endorsements and ad campaigns. It's a game! When players e.g. can do "fake postings" to advertise their companies ("seeding") then this is not about personal data, right. "Data Dealer" is not just about personal data – there is much more to it...

Finally you wrote that one of the major problems in educational game design is how to offer both effective gameplay and effective education. And you're certainly right. We want both. But it's still a big challenge. We're the first ones trying to make a game about "personal data", so it's crucial for us to get as much feedback as we can.

By the way: Investigating the mistakes in the simplified model we use could maybe even play an important part in our game. Many gamers are used to analyze every tiny single detail of the games they're playing. We've already had the idea to explicitly ask players to discuss what might be "wrong" in our game compared to reality – as a part of the game!

In general "Data Dealer" aims to raise awareness of, but also to provoke conversation about surveillance, personal data & privacy in a new way. But we also want it to be a fun game! It's not easy for us to achieve that with our really small budget. But we're doing the best we can. If you have further ideas on what to change or add, please let us know! We'd be excited (and grateful!) to hear them.

I hope this helps to clarify some of your concerns. If interested: Here's a small report on our background research, here's a TEDx talk I did about our project and here's an interview I recently did with ThinkProgress.

Wolfie Christl, Data Dealer


PRISM as a Game!

[UPDATE] If you had access to all the same data as Edward Snowden, what would you do with it? Ever wanted to run your own Smoogle & Tracebook, track your users & pass it over to some governmental agency? Now you can.

Data Dealer is a game that lets you play God with other people's data. Become Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, or even Edward Snowden, as you control the flow of data-- and the price tag that comes with it. And decide for yourself whether they´re heroes or traitors!

For the last two years we´ve been working hard on Data Dealer, a browser game about collecting, processing and selling personal data. For example it looks like that:

Note: Any similarities with people alive, other authorities or real world incidents are purely accidental and not intended.

Your mission: Create businesses and online ventures of all kinds, build up your data empire & collect millions of detailed personal profiles. Add some data delicaries from underground sources and share it with other companies or with the government.

Experience the power of having access to global info just like the NSA! Every dirty detail counts: Turn your database into a money machine. Even the tiniest details could be worth their weight in gold:

Privacy? Screw that. Turn the tables! Become a data dealer and get all the dirty details on your friends, neighbors and the rest of the world. Legal? Illegal? Whatever.

Check out the video trailer, play the demo or like us on your social network of trust:

By the way: Data Dealer has been created by a small team mainly from Vienna, Austria. It´s a nonprofit project and published under CC. The English demo was released a few days before the NSA/PRISM thing has been revealed. What a coincidence! Read more about our project here. Or watch this TEDxVienna talk, where one of the creators spoke about health insurance companies using "self tracking" data, data brokers like Acxiom or Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions, and about the development of Data Dealer.

P.S. Great job, Ed!


Eric Schmidt: "You have to fight for your privacy or you will lose it"

Friendly advice or a serious threat? Google Chairman Eric Schmidt talks privacy with British "Telegraph"

Source: The Telegraph


Online now: Video trailer & playable demo!

Privacy? Screw that. Turn the tables! Data Dealer is a critical online game about personal data and privacy.

Data Dealer is a social/serious/impact game about collecting and selling personal data - full of irony and gleeful sarcasm. It aims to raise awareness of personal data and privacy issues in a new and fun way. Now the English version is available on and playable for free – via web browser, no download required.

Learn how to trick your users and make cash with their personal data!

Players run all kinds of companies and online ventures - from dating sites, mobile apps to search engines and their own social web. On the way to becoming the world's most powerful data tycoon, they obtain data from a variety of sources – whether legal or illegal - and ruthlessly sell it to insurance companies or human resources departments. Their growing data empires have to be defended against hackers, complaining citizens, critical media and pesky privacy activists.

English version: online now

Data Dealer is currently being developed by our small team based in Vienna, Austria, with support from collaborators from Germany, Switzerland and the US. And it´s more than just some fancy idea: About a year ago we released the German demo, which received amazing media coverage and a huge response from the online community. We’ve been working on the full-featured multiplayer version since last autumn, and it´s now about 80% completed. It will be much bigger and much more exciting than what you can already see in the demo. But we decided: It´s high time to enter international waters - and to let you participate in the further development.

Data Dealer is a non-profit project, released under a Creative Commons license and based on HTML5 instead of Flash. The HTML5 portion and the development of our own game engine have been especially tricky.

Did we already mention, that we’d love to hear from you? All feedback is welcome and will help us to make Data Dealer even better! Either post it on our lovely FB page or simply use email: (super-confidential!)

Your Mission

Rise from small-time back room data dealer to become mighty data mogul!

  • Become a data dealer and get all the dirty details on your friends, neighbors and the rest of the world.
  • Build your own data empire: Collect the best data delicacies from your underground sources and create companies and online ventures.
  • Turn data into cash: Collect millions of profiles...with sweepstakes, dating agencies, online personality tests and your own social web.
  • Every dirty detail counts: Turn your database into a money machine! Even the tiniest details could be worth their weight in gold.

Playable demo?

The demo shows the basic gameplay: collecting profiles, importing them into your database and re-selling them again. And then there’s a few other things to play around with as well. But some important parts are still missing:

  • Most importantly: login, multiplayer features and (for those who are into sharing even more personal data) integration with Facebook. In the demo all your game data is lost after closing your web browser. In the full-featured version you´ll be able to login - with Facebook, Twitter, Google or without them - and to continuously grow your data empire.
  • In the full-featured version you will be able to share profiles with your data dealer buddies and to hack the databases of your not-so-buddies.
  • In the demo you´re starting with some pre-loaded game progress. In the full version you´ll experience the glamorous life of a data dealer from scratch!
  • There´s some nice sound in the video trailer, but not in the demo. In the full version you’ll be able to hear all those sales ringing up.

As mentioned the full-featured version is already 80 % finished and we’re hard at work to get it to you as soon as possible. Our budget is limited, but we’re doing our best!

By the way: Data Dealer is based on lots and lots (and lots) of research. If you want to know more about the whys and wherefores of our game, we compiled a report containing background information and many links about the game contents.

Spread the word: Tell your friends, blog, share, tweet & make some noise! And test our demo!