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12Sep/112

EA’s Origin wants to scan your PC and invade your privacy

Origin by EA

There is quite an extraordinary clause in the EULA of EA’s new game service, Origin. One that may well make you think twice about installing the software on your PC. Under the title of “Consent to Collection and Use of Data”, the clause states that by installing Origin you are giving EA permission to “collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer, operating system, Application usage (including but not limited to successful installation and/or removal), software, software usage and peripheral hardware.”

Which is to say, if you want to play Battlefield 3, or any other game that will require Origin to run, you’re going to have to agree to that. And by agreeing to that they are going to root around in your computer. Invasion of privacy? I think that's a major YES.

If you do not agree to Origin's TOS they will not allow you to play any of the games you purchased.

Here are the gory details, straight from Origin's EULA:

2. Consent to Collection and Use of Data.
You agree that EA may collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer (including the Internet Protocol Address), operating system, Application usage (including but not limited to successful installation and/or removal), software, software usage and peripheral hardware, that may be gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, dynamically served content, product support and other services to you, including online services. EA may also use this information combined with personal information for marketing purposes and to improve our products and services. We may also share that data with our third party service providers in a form that does not personally identify you. IF YOU DO NOT WANT EA TO COLLECT, USE, STORE, TRANSMIT OR DISPLAY THE DATA DESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION, PLEASE DO NOT INSTALL OR USE THE APPLICATION. This and all other data provided to EA and/or collected by EA in connection with your installation and use of this Application is collected, used, stored and transmitted in accordance with EA's Privacy Policy located at www.ea.com. To the extent that anything in this section conflicts with the terms of EA's Privacy Policy, the terms of the Privacy Policy shall control.

Now, as RPS notes, some of this wording is not that unusual. Many software companies collect system data and several will even tell you that they plan on distributing this to third parties. This includes Steam, whose EULA states that it will:

[...] store information on a user's hard drive that is used in conjunction with online play of Valve products. This includes a unique authorization key or CD-Key that is either entered by the user or downloaded automatically during product registration. This authorization key is used to identify a user as valid and allow access to Valve's products. Information regarding Steam billing, your Steam account, your Internet connection and the Valve software installed on your computer are uploaded to the server in connection with your use of Steam and Valve software.

But, as RPS points out, there's a big difference between Valve's policy and EA's policy: Valve's policy is self-restricted to anything on your PC directly relating to its own products. EA's is so broad that it gives the publisher permission to scan your entire hard drive, and report back absolutely anything you may have installed, and indeed when you may use it, and then pass that information on the third parties.

Now, this data collection may be used in a neutral fashion, heading directly back to EA for dissection and analysis. But there are two aspects that are particularly troublesome: A.) the wording in the EULA is very unspecific and B.) you have to "AGREE" to the terms in order to install your purchased software. In other words, before you can even start playing, EA wants to start digging.

It gets better:

And then even more creepily, they say they intend to take such information, combine it with personal information about you, and use it to advertise directly to you. However, when selling on this free-for-all on your computer's contents, they'll at least remove personally identifying information. Gosh, thanks. Perhaps you're thinking to yourself: screw this online delivery system and its unseemly urge to dig into my hard drive and operating system. I'll just buy one off the shelf, thank you very much. Not. So. Fast.

It strikes us as beyond acceptable... and so much more serious now that EA has made its intentions clear to make so many of their games exclusively delivered through Origin. Were there a choice about what you'd use to play Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, etc, then gamers could opt out of allowing Origin on their systems while such a policy is in place. But instead it's a case of agree to such remarkable terms, or don't play their games at all. So, it comes down to this: EA wants what's in your hard drive and any other info it can pick up from your usage habits. Sure, EA has probably always wanted this information but now it's deciding that you, the customer, will only play its games if you give up your information. Apparently, $50+ for a game just isn't payment enough anymore.

12Apr/110

Battlefield 3 is designed to take down Blackops

EA is feeling confident about their newest Battlefield game, due to be released in November.

"This November, we're launching Battlefield 3. It's going up against the next Call of Duty, which is presently the #1 game in the game industry. A game that last year did $400 million dollars in revenue on day one. Battlefield 3 is designed to take that game down." - John Riccitiello (@ Ad Age Digital Conference)

Will you buy Battlefield 3?

  • Yes (74%, 121 Votes)
  • No (13%, 22 Votes)
  • Maybe (13%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 163

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