Site Proposal: Gamifying Privacy

This is just an idea, but one I think might be super useful to people first learning about privacy and what to do. The goal is to ease the burden of diving head deep into a lot of technical subjects, and provide more accessibility in starting out and making first choices. From experience, I’ve seen new members of the forum sometimes get overwhelmed by the choices and what one should even do to start off.


By “Gamifying”, I mean to mean to structure dedicated page(s) that can incentivize users to take action and gain a “reward”. We have this on the forum already - I get achievements for participating, reading, and interacting.

With this, I was thinking of two possible systems: having a self evaluated points system, and/ or a level based system.

The points could be assigned for anything that increases knowledge in privacy, or actions taken to increase privacy. I.e. learn about how DNS works by reading this article, give yourself 5 points. Install Firefox and uBlock Origin, get 20 points. Then in certain categories, you could see your self evaluated score. I.e. maybe I have high points in browser privacy and privacy concepts 101, but my points are low in using third party not privacy respecting services (these are all examples, take with a grain of salt).

For a leveling system, each level has a series of tasks that push you further in a privacy journey. Since there are many different paths, we could have multiple privacy journeys to embark on, and with their own levels for gaining more privacy. For example, we could have a mobile privacy journey, desktop journey, a third party service journey, and so on so forth.

However, the hard part is deciding what is and is not important, and what is a sensible “default path” that may be good for all users. It isn’t a one size fits all, so what is more/less important might not be the same depending on what the user is trying to achieve.

Thoughts / opinions?


There is no way to actually know if people read those pages, or acted on any of the content. I doubt a counter on the bottom of the screen will really add any value. The other thing is it may not require a reader to act on everything they read. This is why we direct readers towards the threat modeling pages and give advise about not common misconceptions because in the latter case people waste a lot of energy on things that aren’t really too important.

I think this works better for user contributed content where there is something to compare against (ie other users). This is why we see upvotes, and likes on things like forums and social media. We don’t see a “reward” for reading posts/lurking. The reward for that is content to read.

On a societal line of thinking I really wonder if we need to “gamify” every aspect of what we do? Will people lose motivation to do a thing if it’s not a game? I could see that leading to a lack of innovation or individual thinking. To me it seems like progressive infantilization of society will lead to the point where our brains are programmed to only work when there is an algorithm that gives us a pat on the back.


True, also the incentive of following the guides should be to protect one’s privacy. Nothing more, nothing less. Gamification often fails to have the game incentive aligned with your original goal. For example, maintaining a Duolingo streak is rarely indicative of one’s language proficiency.

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The type of post I respond to the quickest is where someone is stressed and ready to give up. Typically they tried to do too much in a short amount of time. I’m pretty sure turning privacy into a game will only stress certain people even more.

Techlore has a Anonymity Quiz Techlore | Anonymity Quiz if anyone wants to give themselves a checkup. This, I never share with a noob. I only post this when a person has listed all the things they have done and are looking for more ideas.

I don’t think it’s that deep. In reality, I’ve mostly suggested a self scoring rubric or a recommended small path to increasing privacy set by step. Making something that is daunting a little more engaging doesn’t seem like a negative in this case - and the information dump of everything can still exist.

Let’s strip the word gamifying part out then - the expected use case for new users to begin their privacy journey (via Privacy Guides) is to understand how to model their own threats, know and understand all of technology they just heard about here, all in order create their own plan to resolving weaknesses In their threat mode. Whereas the only current path to know if they are on a good first step or in over their heads is to join the community and get help. With this, the site seems geared towards users who are already somewhat tech savvy.

The goal of my proposal is to increase accessibility for privacy choices for those starting out.

This is the red flag I’m talking about. The current information on the site is not geared towards onboarding into privacy. Rather it’s a comprehensive list all suggestions and relative info, a smidge about a threat model, and hope newcomers know what to do. And this scenario is only for people who signed up - what about those who see this supermassive list and don’t know where to begin, and give up without signing up for the forum?

So this quiz is the exact thing I’m talking about. Definitely not geared towards new members, as it has a lot of assumptions, but the zones provide a “easier wins to more difficult to do”. But you’ve got an example of a site to help users make choices and gain new ideas - if that was bad you wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Saying providing an onboarding path is likely to be more stressful then a list of suggestions feels to me like saying a YouTube tutorial on programming an Arduino could be more confusing then directly referencing the technical specification of the development board. Will the tutorial cover everything? No. Can it be a good start for beginners? Yes.

We can take it back a step further as well. On the main site, we have a “start your privacy journey”. It provides some high level concepts and context, but doesn’t explicitly encourage any specific follow ups after reading the page. In other words, what actions would a reader expect to take after reading that page?

Regarding whether or not the proposal is a worthwhile development, instead of gut feeling we can reference some level of effective outcomes:

The results showed that gamification is used for various educational purposes, at many learning levels in various environments, and in a wide variety of learning fields. In most of the studies, the positive effects of gamification and its potential to solve problems in education were reported.

I won’t say this is the end all be all systematic review study, but to be dismissive and saying it’s infantilization seems to be premature assumptions on what ought to be - instead let’s frame this as a possibility to help bring privacy education to more people :slight_smile:

But if we don’t like it or it’s agreed to be tacky, then let’s go back to the root problem that what I’ve proposed was trying to address: helping onboard new users to begin making privacy choices.

I have an idea for a very simple, somewhat gamifying, new visitor/member feature: a checklist. No, there’s no reward – I think those may be too heavy handed for the PG community such as it is. But a checklist highlighting important/easy first steps (then perhaps advancing to more challenging actions) could be a nice way to overview the breadth of actions there are to take. And I think it would be rewarding to see the filled in checkboxes logging your endeavors.
Of course now that I frame it that way, it does seems a bit counterproductive to track our privacy pursuit. :upside_down_face:
And to clarify, I do not recommend that this feature be account-gated. If you aren’t logged in (which it looks like isn’t even an option outside the discuss subdomain) the checkboxes could be saved via a cookie, or simply not saved at all.
The Techlore quiz is quite similar to my suggestion, however I don’t like the zoomed-in nature of online quizzes. I picture this as more like a syllabus, where you can see an overview of everything.

Depends on the implementation - could entirely be stateless and based on HTTP parameters. But yeah, I’m not sure this solves the problem of what would be good first steps. Maybe an ordered checklist by category?