Friday, 3 March 2017

Of Nintendo and Privacy

Let me tell you a personal story about me and my adventures with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes game.

Fire Emblem Heroes is an online only game. That is, it has to be played with your iOS (and, I assume, Android) device connected to the internet. To its credit, Nintendo is not shy of admitting in its iOS app description that it does sell user data it collects [through that always online connection] to third parties. Fact of the matter is, almost all apps and web pages do this; one of the internet’s core problems is this being done behind the scenes without the person whose information is being traded’s awareness and without them having the slightest idea what is then done with this data.
Still, even a corporation such as Nintendo is bound by law. In this particular case, USA law, which demands in one way or another that no details shall be collected from people younger than 13 years. Thus, when I first started Fire Emblem Heroes on my iPad for the first time and the app interrogated me for my personal details, I declared myself a 4 year old. That should give me 8 years plus of unencumbered Fire Emblem heroism…
Problem is, I’ve grown attached to my Fire Emblem Heroes. Having spent much time on the game, I’d hate to lose the heroes I cultivated with time and effort. The solution provided by the game in order to enable the Cloud to store my game progress is to link my Nintendo ID to the game, and thus allow Nintendo to store my game progress against my Nintendo account.
Note the crafty little trick Nintendo is pulling here. Being able to link between one’s [Nintendo] games consoles and one’s mobile devices, be it phone or tablet, raises my value significantly before third party advertisers. It's for what should be obvious reasons, to do with them being able to link several sources of information about me together and acquire a much more accurate as well as detailed image of me. This is exactly why Nintendo offers the path of linking to its account rather than doing what most other iOS apps do, which is to store the app data on Apple’s own iCloud; there is no revenue for Nintendo in using iCloud.

Our story continues.
In order to solve this problem of being able to save my progress online without giving away too much private information to Nintendo, I decided to create a new Nintendo account and state there that I am a 4 year old; then I will link that account to my Fire Emblem Heroes, save my progress, but continue to enjoy the legal privacy protections offered to American children.
So I created such an account. Or rather, tried to; Nintendo would not let me finish the account’s creation without linking it to another account, an adult’s account.
So I went with the flow and created another account, this time an adult account, and then tried to link that account with the child account.
Wait! Said Nintendo. In order to prove you really are an adult and not a child in disguise, I need your credit card details, so I can charge it and therefore confirm you are truly an adult. Given the entire purpose of my personal adventure was the avoidance of providing the too personal and identifiable to Nintendo, I did not give them my credit card info.
I tried another trick instead: I went to the existing Nintendo account we have for our existing Nintendo Wii U console and tried to change the birthday on that account so as to make it a child’s account.
No, said Nintendo yet again: we will not allow you to change the birthday date on an existing account!

Thus ends my story. As in, I do not have the ability to save my Fire Emblem Heroes’ progress online. What I do have, however, is insight on just how far Nintendo is willing to go when it comes to milking its customers for personal data it can then resell.
Think about it:
  1. There is no way for a child to get hold of a Nintendo account without at least one member of the family providing positive ID for online data trackers to use and resell.
  2. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a child from creating a adult’s account and linking it to their game. Yes, it would be illegal for Nintendo to track that user, but its armies of lawyers would be perfectly capable of washing the company’s hands off that.
My experience has made it very clear on which side of the ethical debate at hand Nintendo stands. When it comes to our privacy, companies do not come greedier than Nintendo.


One final note: I would have loved, and I repeat - loved, to give Nintendo some and even many of my hard earned Shekels in return for a private Fire Emblem experience. Evidence indicates I have already done so several times on the 3DS incarnations.

1 comment:

wile.e.coyote said...

I thought that you left all consoles once you heard NSA listen to you using them.