Gambling with your private data

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Taking a chance with your private data? Might not seem like the best idea at first thought. Still, it is something we encounter every day. With the recent controversies surrounding facebook, personal data and privacy are more relevant than ever..

In April the Black Box Bellagio was organised at Waag in collaboration with Roos Groothuizen, as part of the DECODE project. The Black Box Bellagio is a privacy casino - you don’t bet with your money but use your private data as currency instead. Three classic games could be played this evening: roulette, blackjack and poker. All with a twist involving private data. The Waag looked like a proper casino, with tables to play the games, casino equipment, and neon lights decorating the room. To finish it all off, there was even live music, played by a duo aptly called Data Sinatra.

The privacy casino
The three games part of this casino are all designed to evoke critical thinking about privacy and how we deal with personal data in our everyday life. Chance is manipulated in the roulette game, similar to how insurance companies deal with chance in real life. Boxes are blocked off based on personal identifiers such as age and address, data also used to define insurance policies. At the blackjack table, people take a chance with their facebook likes - losing to the house means having to like a random facebook page. At the poker table, data can be traded for advantages in the game. A randomised wheel decides your fate. It’s a risk, but one that many people were willing to take.

Voluntarily giving up data
What’s interesting is how readily people are prepared to provide their private data to play a game in this casino setting. Many people have become much more aware of their privacy and what happens to their personal data recently. At this casino though, caution is thrown to the wind as participating in the games takes priority over the risk of exposure. Giving up personal data seems to be easier when there’s something to gain. Or perhaps it’s just the fun and relaxed setting that makes it easier to share. In the end it all boils down to one question… how far are you prepared to go to win the game?

Want to take a chance yourself?
On 18 May, Waag will organize another edition of the Black Box Bellagio, now in De Nieuwe Anita. More information about this event can be found here:

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