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Security & privacy

Bet you won’t beat this privacy quiz

Privacy is no longer a right, but a privilege on the modern web. Most websites require you to fork over a slew of personal data when you sign up, and some don’t even give you the choice to opt out. But, as free services, this is how they’re able to operate — by selling user data and analytics.

And for many websites, the scramble for data has become absurd. You can see it most clearly in the terms of service or privacy policy of big-name platforms, which go to great lengths to obscure the information you need. Tap or click to learn how to spot fine-print privacy “gotchas.”

That’s why journalists from several outfits have taken it upon themselves to reveal the depths of our global privacy crisis. And now, straight from The New York Times, comes an “educational” game that tests your privacy knowledge. The only way to win: Tell them everything. Can you beat this quiz? We bet you won’t.

The Privacy Chicken is coming for you!

This “educational” game released by The New York Times and independent game developer Everyday Arcade tests your digital privacy knowledge.

Dubbed “Privacy Chicken,” the goal of the game is to reach the end of 16 levels without losing your lives. You have three to start with, and you’ll lose one every time you refuse to cooperate with the task of each level. Simple, right? Tap or click to see even more free games on the Internet Archive.

The New York Times | Nytimes.com

As it turns out, there’s a bit more to Privacy Chicken than meets the eye. Privacy Chicken immediately starts you off with an easy challenge: “Agree to the terms of service.” The Chicken, your host, constantly eggs you on to just click “agree” rather than waste time reading.

Is it just us, or does he seem a tad manic about your data?
The New York Times | Nytimes.com

From here, you’re treated to a host of other unusual requests. Privacy Chicken will ask for extremely sensitive information like phone numbers and email addresses. You need to verify your phone number by text, as well as dig out an email it sends to your spam inbox. Any refusal to cooperate results in a loss of one of your lives.

The New York Times | Nytimes.com

The game also frequently stops you and requests you fill out “affiliate surveys,” including this sinister one above. A bit on the nose, don’t you think?

The New York Times | Nytimes.com

As you progress, you’ll notice the Chicken is gorging on the data you feed him. Once we reach the last level, he takes on a monstrous, blob-like form, surrounded by apocalyptic lighting. Once you reach the last level, he demands the ultimate sacrifice: Your HBO Go username and password! Yes, really!

What do you get when you win? Nothing more than a bloated chicken and a deep sense of shame. Is this what victory is supposed to feel like?

‘A strange game …’

This game is nothing more than satire. Developers Everyday Arcade is known for making games that parody contemporary issues, and this timely entry in their canon is one for the books.

In fact, this game is part of The New York Times’ ongoing “The Privacy Project” newsletter, which documents threats and developments in the world of digital surveillance and big data.

If you actually read the game’s privacy policy, you’ll see it’s part of The Privacy Project, and feel a deep sense of relief. Any information you provide for the purpose of Privacy Chicken is deleted from its servers within two hours.

Additionally, it encourages users to play it safe and not provide real information if possible. Of course, you wouldn’t know this if you gave into Privacy Chicken’s goading. Tap or click to see an AI that will read complicated privacy policies for you.

But still, the game illustrates a salient point: To “win,” you must completely surrender your privacy. Without exception, if you decide not to share any info, you’re penalized for it. In other words, it’s a game you don’t want to play all the way through.

Which is why, as we mentioned above, you won’t beat this privacy quiz. Why would you even want to?

Screenshot: War Games (1983)
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