EA's Origin Service Wants To Exchange Games For Your Personal Data [Updated]
from the plus-full-retail-price,-if-possible dept
Just when you thought no one would be able to top the various levels of DRM insanity plied by Ubisoft in its quixotic quest to end piracy as we know it, something else comes along that’s bigger and badder than the nuisances that preceded it.
Electronic Arts’ new game service, Origin, has hidden some rather disturbing language inside its EULA. Rock, Paper, Shotgun notes that in order to play Battlefield 3, or any other game that requires Origin to run, you’re going to have to let EA root around inside your computer. Here’s the gory details, straight from Origin’s EULA:
2. Consent to Collection and Use of Data.
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.
Update: Looks like all this attention has gotten EA to back down a little. Not fully, mind you. They now say they can still collect the data. Just not give it to marketing partners.