Commentary

Players Don't Care About Zynga Privacy Issues

The last couple weeks have seen a lot of very public controversy surrounding some privacy "slip-ups" (possibly deliberate) by Facebook and Zynga, the casual game developer behind time-wasting hits including FarmVille and Mafia Wars. According to the Wall Street Journal and at least one class action lawsuit, Zynga has secretly shared user information with third-party advertisers and Internet marketers, in violation of its agreements with Facebook and its users.

If you believe that consumers actually care about privacy issues, in this context you might expect to see a significant decrease in the number of Facebook members playing Zynga games. After all, these weren't isolated incidents but a wholesale transgression, affecting "tens of millions" of app users according to the WSJ. This would seem to suggest that the illicit data sharing was not accidental but planned and deliberate. Shock and outrage should ensue, right?

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Nope. In fact, there has been nary a blip nor wobble in Zynga's user base -- aside from a slow, long-term decline which (I'm guessing) has everything to do with older games losing their novelty and nothing to do with privacy concerns.

Zynga's total monthly active user base has remained basically flat over the last two months: from 215 million in mid-September, it has slipped 1.4% to 212 million today. According to AppData.com, the combined number of players for its six most popular games -- FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker, Frontierville, Café World, Mafia Wars, and Treasure Isle -- has declined 5.3% from 190 million in mid-September to 180 million today.

These modest declines are part of a long-standing trend already in evidence well before the privacy revelations hit the press, reflecting the fact that casual games have a certain lifespan after which the novelty wears off and users migrate to new games. For example, FarmVille saw its total number of monthly active users decline from 84 million in March to 70 million in June, then 62 million in mid-September and 56.9 million today, according to AppData.

5 comments about "Players Don't Care About Zynga Privacy Issues".
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  1. Eric Scoles from brand cool marketing, October 29, 2010 at 7:45 p.m.

    So you're 'shocked, shocked you say' to see no shock and outrage?

    So let's have it: Should people care about privacy? Just tell us what you think, instead of sneering at the idea that we might expect Facebook or Zynga or Myspace to adhere to their own privacy policies, or (even more sneer-worthy) that we might have naive expectations about our privacy?

    Because I keep getting the feeling that's what this is all about: You're trying to tell us we're old, we're behind the curve, we don't really understand Teh New Social, where not only does nobody really care about privacy, but nobody ought to. In my own head, I keep rewinding ten years to when people kept telling me I didn't understand The New Economy, wherein value would be directly and magically correlated with how cool people thought your website was. I remember how that went; I remember seeing good companies like Ziff-Davis get burned to the ground by boomthink.

  2. John Capone from Whalebone, October 29, 2010 at 8:09 p.m.

    Whoa there, Walter. This has nothing to do with Vietnam.

  3. Erik Sass from none, October 29, 2010 at 11:55 p.m.

    I wasn't trying to take a position on privacy, sneering or otherwise. Nor was I trying to imply that everyone who cares about privacy is old, or that only old people would care about privacy, or that no one should care about privacy, or that privacy isn't important. I was just observing that Zynga users don't seem to be bothered by the game developer's recent well-publicized privacy breaches. Really. That's all.

  4. Eric Broyles from megree, Inc., October 31, 2010 at 9:21 p.m.

    At the outset, companies should always comply with their privacy policies. With that in mind, I think the same argument in the is article applies across social media in general; that is, users behavior belie the notion that privacy sensibilities are heightened to the point of withdrawl. Notwithstanding all of the issues raised around privacy, people continue to join, share, distribute and engage with these platforms. New privacy norms are emerging.

  5. Heather Wetzler from Talent House, November 1, 2010 at 10:44 p.m.


    Well - I wouldn't classify a Class Action Lawsuit as "NOT" Caring:

    Class Action Suits Target Google, Facebook, Zynga

    http://threatpost.com/en_us/blogs/class-action-suits-target-google-facebook-zynga-102810

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