Family Village game on Facebook pushes privacy boundaries
Everyone is fascinated by the concept of learning more about their family roots. Case in point: NBC's Friday night reality show 'Who Do You Think You Are,' where celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall and Steve Buscemi dig deep into their family's past while America watches.
Now, there's a new Facebook game from Funium -- Family Village -- that's designed to do the same for you. There's a catch, though. You're required to give up some serious personal information in order to uncover any new family info. I'm not talking about things like your hometown and birthday, but things like your parents name, place of birth, birthdays, etc. It's necessary info to properly play the game, but it also inadvertently reminds me of the numerous phishing scam emails I get every month.
Family Village works like this: Create an avatar in a virtual village (much like you'd see in FarmVille or any other Facebook game) and then move your parents and other relatives into your town, assign them a place to live and give them jobs so they can earn coins which can, in turn, be used to upgrade your town with new buildings, roads, etc. The game is driven by a series of tasks -- many of which require you to enter people's birthdays and other personal info.
As you enter your relatives' info, the game will pull up old articles, census data or other bits of information that may be relevant to your family. You can check it out and then determine whether the information is relevant or not. If so, you can save the info (or print it out), then continue populating your village with the rest of your family tree, and, ideally, uncovering more information as time moves on.
Admittedly, the concept of a game that helps you discover your roots is a fascinating one, but with the recent reports that Facebook plans to cash in on users' personal information more than ever, the Family Village's release couldn't really come at a worse time.
And, even though the Funium gives the generic promise to take 'great care to protect your family information inside Family Village' and says its 'servers are located behind firewalls' -- that's not really saying much, especially in the digital age wracked with headlines about supposedly secure Android apps exposing personal information and recent Capital One, JP Morgan Chase and Best Buy hacks doing the same.
"Privacy is of key importance to Funium as well as its players. Please understand that Funium does not share anyone's information with Facebook. Rather it is Facebook that shares the user's information with us. The relationship is one-way. And, unless the user specifically allows it, no one visiting your village can see anything but first names and last initials for villagers. We allow users to share their family tree with other family members but it is the player who determines who their family tree is shared with, not Funium."