Besides being fun and saving lives, viral word game Wordle is tracking its users much more heavily now that the game has taken over the internet and is owned by The New York Times. The game is literarily trending on Twitter ever since it went viral, as players work together to figure out the daily word or simply spoil the fun of those unfortunate enough to lay eyes upon the shared results. However, one Twitter user pointed out that Wordle’s tracking has increased ever since the game was bought out by The New York Times. You can see the tweet below:
For those that aren’t familiar with the viral game, Wordle was created by a software engineer from Brooklyn, who said he built the game as something for him and his partner to play. So naturally, the game caught wind and went viral, garnering the attention of The New York Times, which bought the game for a low seven figures price — a fancy way of saying “at least $1 million.” After The Times purchased the game, some players complained that the game had become more difficult. However, according to Business Insider, Twitter user Ben Adida discovered that The Times didn’t make the game more difficult but loaded it with trackers.
This might sound frightening to some, but the truth is that modern, internet-enabled tech is constantly tracking its users. But has the readership ever wondered how certain websites knew to show them ads about sheet metal after they had previously searched for sheet metal online? The answer is simple — ad-tracking. Ad-tracking is a big part of how digital publications, game makers, and various service providers on the internet make money. Wherever there’s an ad banner, an ad-tracker is running in the background. And Wordle tracking is no different.
Some of the ad-trackers implemented into Wordle are from The New York Times, while others send data to third parties, including Google. This sounds like a massive invasion of privacy, considering that video games, software in general, and other internet-enabled tech is learning stuff about its users, like browsing habits. And it would be, if tech companies haven’t found a legal workaround, in the form of various EULAs (End User License Agreement) and TOSs (Terms of Service), which require end-users to enable in-app ad-tracking if they want to use a particular software or service. For anyone believing otherwise, Google’s Incognito Mode isn’t really incognito.
What does all of this mean for the end-user? Nothing, apart from a few annoying ads here and there, and search engines knowing your name, gender, and what size underwear you wear. Wordle will remain the fun game you used to play before The New York Times bought it, and no, it didn’t make it more difficult. However, it’s really interesting that the implementation of additional trackers wasn’t mentioned anywhere, which is perhaps something the company should’ve done, either through online notifications or by offering current users a revised EULA or TOS, stating the change about Wordle tracking.