Upgrading the protection of children from manipulative and addictive strategies in online games
Legal and technical solutions beyond privacy regulation
Keywords:children, ethics, privacy
Despite the increasing awareness from academia, civil society and media to the issue of child manipulation online, the current EU regulatory system fails at providing sufficient levels of protection. Given the universality of the issue, there is a need to combine and further these scattered efforts into a unitary, multidisciplinary theory of digital manipulation that identifies causes and effects, systematizes the technical and legal knowledge on manipulative and addictive tactics, and to find effective regulatory mechanisms to fill the legislative gaps. In this paper we discuss manipulative and exploitative strategies in the context of online games for children, suggest a number of possible reasons for the failure of the applicable regulatory system, propose an “upgrade" for the regulatory approach to address these risks from the perspective of freedom of thought, and present and discuss technological approaches that allow for the development of games that verifiably protect the privacy and freedoms of players.
Acquisti, Alessandro, Idris Adjerid, Rebecca Balebako, Laura Brandimarte, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Saranga Komanduri, Pedro Giovanni Leon, et al. 2017. “Nudges for Privacy and Security: Understanding and Assisting Users’ Choices Online.” ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 50 (3): 1–41.
Alha, Kati. "The rise of free-to-play: How the revenue model changed games and playing." (2020).
Alegre, Susie. 2021a. “Protecting Freedom of Thought in the Digital Age.”
———. 2021b. “Regulating Around Freedom in the ‘Forum Internum’.” In ERA Forum, 21:591–604. 4. Springer.
Arrington, Robert L. 1982. “Advertising and Behavior Control.” Journal of Business Ethics 1 (1): 3–12.
Aylsworth, Timothy. 2020. “Autonomy and Manipulation: Refining the Argument Against Persuasive Advertising.” Journal of Business Ethics, 1–11.
Baker, Sherry, and David L Martinson. 2001. “The Tares Test: Five Principles for Ethical Persuasion.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 16 (2-3): 148–75.
Barocas, Solon, and Helen Nissenbaum. 2009. “On Notice: The Trouble with Notice and Consent.” In Proceedings of the Engaging Data Forum: The First International Forum on the Application and Management of Personal Electronic Information.
Ben-Shahar, Omri, and Carl E Schneider. 2014. More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure. Princeton University Press.
Blades, Mark, Caroline Oates, Fran Blumberg, and Barrie Gunter. 2014. Advertising to Children: New Directions, New Media. Springer.
Blumberg, F. C., Deater-Deckard, K., Calvert, S. L., Flynn, R. M., Green, C. S., Arnold, D., & Brooks, P. J. (2019). Digital Games as a Context for Children’s Cognitive Development: Research Recommendations and Policy Considerations. Social Policy Report, 32(1), 1–33.
Brownsword, Roger. 2012. “Regulating Brain Imaging: Questions of Privacy, Informed Consent, and Human Dignity.” I Know What You’re Thinking. Brain Imaging and Mental Privacy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 223–44.
Bublitz, Jan-Christoph. 2013. “My Mind Is Mine!? Cognitive Liberty as a Legal Concept.” In Cognitive Enhancement, 233–64. Springer.
Candy, Peter. 2018. “Lex (P) Laetoria.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics.
Canli, Turhan. 2006. “When Genes and Brains Unite: Ethical Implications of Genomic Neuroimaging.” Neuroethics: Defining the Issues in Theory, Practice and Policy, 169–84.
Carr, Nicholas. 2020. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. WW Norton & Company.
Chatterjee, Rahul, Periwinkle Doerfler, Hadas Orgad, Sam Havron, Jackeline Palmer, Diana Freed, Karen Levy, Nicola Dell, Damon McCoy, and Thomas Ristenpart. 2018. “The Spyware Used in Intimate Partner Violence.” In 2018 Ieee Symposium on Security and Privacy (Sp), 441–58. IEEE.
Clarke, Barbie, and Siv Svanaes. 2012. “Digital Marketing and Advertising to Children: A Literature Review.” In Advertising Education Forum. Vol. 79.
Commons, House of. 2019. “Immersive and Addictive Technologies.”
Council, Norwegian Consumer. 2018. “Deceived by Design, How Tech Companies Use Dark Patterns to Discourage Us from Exercising Our Rights to Privacy.” Norwegian Consumer Council Report.
Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly. 2017. “Technological Convergence, Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights.”
Crepax, T., Muntés-Mulero, V., Martinez, J., & Ruiz, A. (2022). Information technologies exposing children to privacy risks: Domains and children-specific technical controls. Computer Standards & Interfaces, 82, 103624
Crisp, Roger. 1987. “Persuasive Advertising, Autonomy, and the Creation of Desire.” Journal of Business Ethics 6 (5): 413–18.
Dalla Corte, Lorenzo. 2020. “A Right to a Rule: On the Substance and Essence of the Fundamental Right to Personal Data Protection.” Data Protection and Privacy, 27–58.
De Jans, Steffi, Dieneke Van de Sompel, Liselot Hudders, and Veroline Cauberghe. 2019. “Advertising Targeting Young Children: An Overview of 10 Years of Research (2006–2016).” International Journal of Advertising 38 (2): 173–206.
Demmler, Daniel, Peter Rindal, Mike Rosulek, and Ni Trieu. 2018. “PIR-Psi: Scaling Private Contact Discovery.” Proc. Priv. Enhancing Technol. 2018 (4): 159–78.
Drummond, A., & Sauer, J. D. (2018). Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling. Nature Human Behaviour, 2(8), 530–532.Duch-Brown, Nestor, Bertin Martens, and Frank Mueller-Langer. 2017. “The Economics of Ownership, Access and Trade in Digital Data.”
Durante, Kristina M, Vladas Griskevicius, Sarah E Hill, Carin Perilloux, and Norman P Li. 2011. “Ovulation, Female Competition, and Product Choice: Hormonal Influences on Consumer Behavior.” Journal of Consumer Research 37 (6): 921–34.
El-Nasr, Magy Seif, Anders Drachen, and Alessandro Canossa. Game analytics. Springer London Limited, 2016.
Europe, Council of. 2019. “Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the Manipulative Capabilities of Algorithmic Processes.”
Fenton, Ted, and Reinout W Wiers. 2017. “Free Will, Black Swans and Addiction.” Neuroethics 10 (1): 157– 65.
Fitton, D., & Read, J. C. (2019, June). Creating a framework to support the critical consideration of dark design aspects in free-to-play apps. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 407-418).
Fischbach, Ruth, and Janet Mindes. 2011. “Why Neuroethicists Are Needed.” Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, 343–76.
Fogg, Brian J. 2002. “Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.” Ubiquity 2002 (December): 2.
Ford, John B. 2019. “What Do We Know About Neuromarketing?” Journal of Advertising Research. https://doi.org/10.2501/JAR-2019-031.
Fukuyama, Francis. 2003. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Farrar, Straus; Giroux.
Gilbert, Neil, Nigel Parton, and Marit Skivenes. 2011. Child Protection Systems: International Trends and Orientations. OUP USA.
Greene, Joshua, and Jonathan Cohen. 2004. “For the Law, Neuroscience Changes Nothing and Everything.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 359 (1451): 1775–85.
Griffiths, Mark D. "Adolescent gambling and gambling-type games on social networking sites: Issues, concerns, and recommendations." Aloma: revista de psicologia, ciències de l'educació i de l'esport Blanquerna 33, no. 2 (2015): 31-37.
Hargittai, Eszter, and Alice Marwick. "“What can I really do?” Explaining the privacy paradox with online apathy." International journal of communication 10 (2016): 21.
Harris, Tristan. 2016. “How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds—from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.” Medium Magazine.
Hartzog, Woodrow. 2018. Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies. Harvard University Press.
Hullett, Kenneth, Nagappan, Nachiappan, Schuh, Eric, and Hopson, John. "Empirical analysis of user data in game software development," Proceedings of the 2012 ACM-IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, 2012, pp. 89-98, doi: 10.1145/2372251.2372265.
Ienca, Marcello, and Roberto Andorno. 2017. “Towards New Human Rights in the Age of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology.” Life Sciences, Society and Policy 13 (1): 1–27.
Ienca, Marcello, and Gianclaudio Malgieri. 2021. “Mental Data Protection and the Gdpr.” Available at SSRN 3840403.
Kales, Daniel, Christian Rechberger, Thomas Schneider, Matthias Senker, and Christian Weinert. 2019. “Mobile Private Contact Discovery at Scale.” In 28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19), 1447–64.
Karlsen, F. (2020). Game Creation, Monetisation Models, and Ethical Concerns.
Karlsen, F. (2021). Balancing Ethics, Art and Economics: A Qualitative Analysis of Game Designer Perspectives on Monetisation. Games and Culture, 15554120211049579.Kenning, Peter, and Marc Linzmajer. 2011. “Consumer Neuroscience: An Overview of an Emerging Discipline with Implications for Consumer Policy.” Journal Für Verbraucherschutz Und Lebensmittelsicherheit 6 (1): 111–25.
King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2018). Predatory monetization schemes in video games (eg ‘loot boxes’) and internet gaming disorder.
Kidron, Beeban, Alexandra Evans, Jenny Afia, Joanna R Adler, Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Liam Hackett, Anisha Juj, Andrew K Przybylski, Anghrarad Rudkin, and Young Scot. 2018. “Disrupted Childhood: The Cost of Persuasive Design.”
Király, Orsolya, Mark D Griffiths, Daniel L King, Hae-Kook Lee, Seung-Yup Lee, Fanni Bányai, Ágnes Zsila, Zsofia K Takacs, and Zsolt Demetrovics. 2018. “Policy Responses to Problematic Video Game Use: A Systematic Review of Current Measures and Future Possibilities.” Journal of Behavioral Addictions 7 (3): 503–17.
Koob, George F, and Nora D Volkow. 2016. “Neurobiology of Addiction: A Neurocircuitry Analysis.” The Lancet Psychiatry 3 (8): 760–73.
Kröger, Jacob Leon, Philip Raschke, Jessica Percy Campbell, and Stefan Ullrich. 2021. “Surveilling the Gamers: Privacy Impacts of the Video Game Industry.” Available at SSRN 3881279.
LaRose, Robert, and Nora J Rifon. 2007. “Promoting I-Safety: Effects of Privacy Warnings and Privacy Seals on Risk Assessment and Online Privacy Behavior.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 41 (1): 127–49.
Laufer, Robert S, and Maxine Wolfe. 1977. “Privacy as a Concept and a Social Issue: A Multidimensional Developmental Theory.” Journal of Social Issues 33 (3): 22–42.
Leshner, Alan I. 1997. “Addiction Is a Brain Disease, and It Matters.” Science 278 (5335): 45–47.
Lessig, Lawrence. 2009. Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace. ReadHowYouWant. com.
Lievens, Eva, Sonia Livingstone, Sharon McLaughlin, Brian O’Neill, and Valerie Verdoodt. 2018. “Children’s Rights and Digital Technologies.” International Children’s Rights Law, 487–513.
Lindstrom, Martin. 2010. Buy Ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. Currency.
Livingstone, Sonia, John Carr, and Jasmina Byrne. 2016. “One in Three: Internet Governance and Children’s Rights.”
Livingstone, Sonia, Mariya Stoilova, and Rishita Nandagiri. 2018. “Conceptualising Privacy Online: What Do, and What Should, Children Understand?” Parenting for a Digital Future.
———. 2019. “Children’s Data and Privacy Online: Growing up in a Digital Age: An Evidence Review.”
Livingstone, Sonia, Damian Tambini, Nikola Belakova, and Emma Goodman. 2018. “Protection of Children Online: Does Current Regulation Deliver?”
Lupton, Deborah, and Ben Williamson. 2017. “The Datafied Child: The Dataveillance of Children and Implications for Their Rights.” New Media & Society 19 (5): 780–94.
Lwin, May O., Andrea JS Stanaland, and Anthony D. Miyazaki. "Protecting children's privacy online: How parental mediation strategies affect website safeguard effectiveness." Journal of retailing 84, no. 2 (2008): 205-217.
Macenaite, Milda, and Eleni Kosta. 2017. “Consent for Processing Children’s Personal Data in the Eu: Following in Us Footsteps?” Information & Communications Technology Law 26 (2): 146–97.
Madigan, Jamie. 2015. Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People Who Play Them. Rowman & Littlefield.
Maene, P., J. Götzfried, R. de Clercq, T. Müller, F. Freiling, and I. Verbauwhede. 2017. “Hardware-Based Trusted Computing Architectures for Isolation and Attestation.” IEEE Transactions on Computers PP (99): 1–1.
Matthews, Steve. 2015. “Neuromarketing: What is it and is it a threat to privacy?” In Handbook of Neuroethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4707-4_154.
McCarthy-Jones, Simon. 2019. “The Autonomous Mind: The Right to Freedom of Thought in the Twenty-First Century.” Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence 2: 19.
Melzer, A. K., Roarsen, A. K., Hagen, M. H., & Jaccheri, L. (2021, November). Towards Suitable Free-to-Play Games for Children. In International Conference on Entertainment Computing (pp. 264-276). Springer, Cham.
moxie0. 2017. “Technology Preview: Private Contact Discovery for Signal.”
Murphy, Emily R, Judy Illes, and Peter B Reiner. 2008. “Neuroethics of Neuromarketing.” Journal of Consumer Behaviour: An International Research Review 7 (4-5): 293–302.
Newman, Joe, and Joseph Jerome. 2014. “Press Start to Track Privacy and the New Questions Posed by Modern Video Game Technology.” AIPLA QJ 42: 527.
OECD. 2021. “Children in the Digital Environment,” no. 302. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1787/9b8f222e-en.
O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, and others. 2011. “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” Pediatrics 127 (4): 800–804.
Onnela, Jukka-Pekka, and Scott L Rauch. 2016. “Harnessing Smartphone-Based Digital Phenotyping to Enhance Behavioral and Mental Health.” Neuropsychopharmacology 41 (7): 1691–6.
Owen, Laura, Charlie Lewis, Susan Auty, and Moniek Buijzen. 2013. “Is Children’s Understanding of Nontraditional Advertising Comparable to Their Understanding of Television Advertising?” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 32 (2): 195–206.
Pasquale, Liliana, and Paola Zippo. 2020. “A Review of Age Verification Mechanism for 10 Social Media Apps.”
Purtova, Nadezhda. 2018. “The Law of Everything. Broad Concept of Personal Data and Future of Eu Data Protection Law.” Law, Innovation and Technology 10 (1): 40–81.
Ramsøy, Thomas Zoëga. 2019. “Building a Foundation for Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience Research: How Researchers Can Apply Academic Rigor to the Neuroscientific Study of Advertising Effects.” Journal of Advertising Research 59 (3): 281–94.
Ringland, Kathryn E. 2019. “‘Autsome’: Fostering an Autistic Identity in an Online Minecraft Community for Youth with Autism.” In International Conference on Information, 132–43. Springer.
Russell, N Cameron, Joel R Reidenberg, and Sumyung Moon. 2018. “Privacy in Gaming.” Fordham Intell. Prop. Media %Ent. LJ 29: 61.
Sartor, Giovanni, Francesca Lagioia, and Federico Galli. 2021. “Regulating Targeted and Behavioural Advertising in Digital Services.”
Sax, Marijn, and Jef Ausloos. 2021. “Getting Under Your Skin(s): A Legal-Ethical Exploration of Fortnite’s Transformation into a Content Delivery Platform and Its Manipulative Potential.” Interactive Entertainment Law Review 4 (1).
Schaik, Stephan van, Andrew Kwong, Daniel Genkin, and Yuval Yarom. 2020. “SGAxe: How SGX Fails in Practice.”
Schaub, Florian, Rebecca Balebako, Adam L Durity, and Lorrie Faith Cranor. 2015. “A Design Space for Effective Privacy Notices.” In Eleventh Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (Soups 2015), 1–17.
Schüll, Natasha Dow. 2012. Addiction by Design. Princeton University Press.
Schultz, Wolfram, Peter Dayan, and P Read Montague. 1997. “A Neural Substrate of Prediction and Reward.” Science 275 (5306): 1593–9.
Scopelliti, Gianluca, Sepideh Pouyanrad, Job Noorman, Fritz Alder, Frank Piessens, and Jan Tobias Mühlberg. 2021. “POSTER: An Open-Source Framework for Developing Heterogeneous Distributed Enclave Applications.” In CCS ’21. New York, NY, USA: ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/3460120.3485341.
Sententia, Wrye. 2004. “Neuroethical Considerations: Cognitive Liberty and Converging Technologies for Improving Human Cognition.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1013 (1): 221–28.
Sher, Shlomo. 2011. “A Framework for Assessing Immorally Manipulative Marketing Tactics.” Journal of Business Ethics 102 (1): 97–118.
Sieber, Alexander. 2019. “Souled out of rights? - Predicaments in protecting the human spirit in the age of neuromarketing.” In Life Sciences, Society and Policy. Vol. 15. 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40504-019- 0095-4.
Sifa, Rafet, Anders Drachen, and Christian Bauckhage. 2018. “Profiling in Games: Understanding Behavior from Telemetry.” Social Interactions in Virtual Worlds: An Interdisciplinary Perspective.
signal. 2021. “Signal.”
Simon, Herbert A. 1994. “The Bottleneck of Attention: Connecting Thought with Motivation.”
Skriabin, Oleksii M, Dmytro B Sanakoiev, Natalia D Sanakoieva, Vita V Berezenko, and Yuliia V Liubchenko. 2021. “Neurotechnologies in the advertising industry: Legal and ethical aspects.” Innovative Marketing 17 (2): 2021. https://doi.org/10.21511/im.17(2).2021.17.
Sloan, Robert H, and Richard Warner. 2014. “Beyond Notice and Choice: Privacy, Norms, and Consent.” J. High Tech. L. 14: 370.
Small, Gary W, Jooyeon Lee, Aaron Kaufman, Jason Jalil, Prabha Siddarth, Himaja Gaddipati, Teena D Moody, and Susan Y Bookheimer. 2020. “Brain Health Consequences of Digital Technology Use.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience 22 (2): 179.
Smidts, Ale. 2002. “Kijken in Het Brein: Over de Mogelijkheden van Neuromarketing.”
Smith, Karen Louise, and Leslie Regan Shade. "Children’s digital playgrounds as data assemblages: Problematics of privacy, personalization, and promotional culture." Big Data & Society 5, no. 2 (2018): 2053951718805214.
Stanton, Steven J, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Scott A Huettel. 2017. “Neuromarketing: Ethical Implications of Its Use and Potential Misuse.” Journal of Business Ethics 144 (4): 799–811.
Steeves, Valerie, and Cheryl Webster. "Closing the barn door: The effect of parental supervision on Canadian children's online privacy." Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 28, no. 1 (2008): 4-19.
Su, Yanhui, Per Backlund, and Henrik Engström. "Comprehensive review and classification of game analytics." Service Oriented Computing and Applications 15, no. 2 (2021): 141-156.
Suleman, Muhammad, Tariq Rahim Soomro, Taher M Ghazal, and Muhammad Alshurideh. 2021. “Combating Against Potentially Harmful Mobile Apps.” In The International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision, 154–73. Springer.
Swan, Melanie. 2012. “Sensor Mania! The Internet of Things, Wearable Computing, Objective Metrics, and the Quantified Self 2.0.” Journal of Sensor and Actuator Networks 1 (3): 217–53.
Third, Amanda, Delphine Bellerose, Juliano Diniz De Oliveira, Girish Lala, and Georgina Theakstone. 2017. “Young and Online: Children’s Perspectives on Life in the Digital Age.”
Van den Berg, Bibi, and Simone Van der Hof. 2012. “What Happens to My Data? A Novel Approach to Informing Users of Data Processing Practices.” First Monday 17 (7).
Simone, van der Hof, and Eva Lievens. "The importance of privacy by design and data protection impact assessments in strengthening protection of children's personal data under the GDPR." Communications law 23, no. 1 (2018).
Van Reijmersdal, Eva A, Jeroen Jansz, Oscar Peters, and Guda Van Noort. 2010. “The Effects of Interactive Brand Placements in Online Games on Children’s Cognitive, Affective, and Conative Brand Responses.” Computers in Human Behavior 26 (6): 1787–94.
Verdoodt, Valerie. 2020. Children’s Rights and Commercial Communication in the Digital Era. Vol. 10. Intersentia.
Waiguny, Martin KJ, Michelle R Nelson, and Ralf Terlutter. 2014. “The Relationship of Persuasion Knowledge, Identification of Commercial Intent and Persuasion Outcomes in Advergames—the Role of Media Context and Presence.” Journal of Consumer Policy 37 (2): 257–77.
Wardlaw, Joanna M, Garret O’connell, Kirsten Shuler, Janet DeWilde, Jane Haley, Oliver Escobar, Shaun Murray, et al. 2011. “‘Can It Read My Mind?’–What Do the Public and Experts Think of the Current (Mis) Uses of Neuroimaging?” PloS One 6 (10): e25829.
Wilson, Edward O. 2017. The Origins of Creativity. Liveright Publishing.
Wilson, R Mark, Jeannie Gaines, and Ronald Paul Hill. 2008. “Neuromarketing and Consumer Free Will.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 42 (3): 389–410.
Wright, Benjamin D. 1997. “A History of Social Science Measurement.” Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 16 (4): 33–45.
Wu, Tim. 2017. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads. Vintage.
Wuyts, Kim, Laurens Sion, and Wouter Joosen. 2020. “LINDDUN Go: A Lightweight Approach to Privacy Threat Modeling.” In 2020 Ieee European Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops (Euros&PW), 302–9. IEEE.
Zuboff, Shoshana. 2019. “Surveillance Capitalism.” Esprit 5: 63–77.