Data Dealer Puts Your Data Value in Perspective, NSA PRISM in Reverse

Written by David Michaelis — Anyone who wants to understand privacy as a commodity needs to play  a game called Data Dealer.

The free online game won first prize at the recent annual Games for Change award show. It won’t create real Angry Birds style addicts. But it will make you extraordinarily literal as to the data value market — and the value your data has in it. Check out this Data Dealer video, below. It’s called Screw Privacy. Which basically means turn the tables on nosey and information-grabbing individuals or organizations. This info sure is timely given the NSA PRISM flap.

Video Credit for Data Dealer the Facebook Game:Data Dealer YouTube Channel

Video Credit:Data Dealer YouTube Channel

Though Zynga execs do collaborate to a small degree, Austrian gamers developed it for the expressed reason of generating awareness around data commerce and the data value individuals have. It is interesting timing, given the world’s focus on the recently uncovered global U.S. NSA surveillance PRISM project and questions surrounding what the agency could do with the data and if and how it could be monetized.

One might also call ironic. The NewYorker spoke to lead developer Wolfie Christl, who told them that, yes, “at the moment, there is .. this PRISM and NSA scandal, and for sure, information about people is often (given) by private companies to governmental agencies.” But, he added, “in our game, the (players) are selling the information to the government. In real life, you just give it away for free.”

He erupted with laughter. But not everyone is laughing.

As schools are beginning to introduce Data Dealer into classrooms, the developers are now working on an educational toolkit for teaching lessons about digital literacy.

The free online game is called Data Dealer. Using hackers, detectives, and Internet business schemes, you amass a cache of fictional private information, and then sell that data to corporations — with names like Starmart or, instead of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Central Security Agency.

Christl and his small team originally released the game to German-speaking countries in April 2012, and expanded it with an English version this year.

The creators are not afraid of the competition. Their funding comes via non profit grants — and crowd sourcing.

Christl expanded on the idea for GamesForChange, saying:

We’ve been involved with digital literacy and the sociocultural impact of information and communications technology for a long time. Today virtually everything we do is recorded, monitored or tracked in some way. Most users reveal a lot more about themselves online than they think … Now there are quite a few initiatives operating in the fields of teaching digital literacy and safer internet usage. But most people are quite bored of all that preaching on what to be careful about. So we came up with the idea to create a fun game where players take on the role of a bad guy and collect and sell data themselves …

Data Dealer is based on a ton of research — the firm compiled it here at this background report.

Kristl has explained that there is a … “fundamental problem (with) game development … the budgets of games for social impact are usually light years from the usual budgets in the gaming sector. Then again, simple but clever games can easily beat million-dollar productions.

“It’s all about having good ideas,” he continued.

What about addiction — any danger of that ala Angry Birds.”>Ever seen this research on Angry Birds addiction? Click here for that.

Better to be a happy bird than an angry, addictive bird, he joked.

For more reading: NewYorker commented this week:

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is an award-winning journalist and producer and is on the global commentary beat at Email him at