Studios Remove 'Spyware' From Several Games As Gaming Public Revolts
from the just-a-little-spyin' dept
If this is becoming a trend, it’s a really, really stupid one on the part of the video game industry. You may recall several recent posts about software, mobile apps, and video games that have sneakily installed what many call spyware onto users’ machines, or otherwise inject software without the knowledge of the user. From soccer apps to flight simulator mods, users and gamers sure as hell don’t like it when they have to find out from internet sleuths that the software they’re using is spying or using them behind the scenes without their knowledge.
And now we learn about Red Shell, a software company that has contracted with multiple game publishers. Red Shell’s software is installed alongside games to track all kinds of information about the machines on which those games are played. It gathers information about a gamer’s operating system, browser version, IP address and more, all with the goal of feeding information to game publishers to evaluate how effective their advertising models are. We should note here that Red Shell specifically claims that personal information is not collected.
“We don’t collect names, emails, or addresses,” Red Shell says on its website, noting that games can offer an opt-out to players if developers so choose. “Our service basically says ‘this computer clicked on a link from this YouTube video and the same computer played your game.’ We have no interest in tracking people, just computers for the purposes of attribution.”
Whatever lengths Red Shell goes to anonymize this data, the simple fact of the matter is that all of this was done without the knowledge of the gaming public installing these games. And we’re talking about a massive amount of games found to include Red Shell software thus far.
The software has been discovered in over 50 games including The Elder Scrolls Online, Conan Exiles, Hunt: Showdown, and Civilization VI. For the past couple weeks, a contingent of players have dedicated themselves to weeding it out, decrying it as “spyware” that many companies failed to disclose.
“Red Shell is a spyware that tracks data of your PC and shares it with 3rd parties,” Redditor Alexspeed75 wrote last week in a thread that’s became something of a rallying place for aggrieved players. “On their website they formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone I don’t trust and whom I never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my PC against my will. This should have no place in a full price PC game, and in no games if it were up to me.”
Since then, publishers have either been removing the Red Shell software from game installs, or else pledging to not use the software in the future. The folks over at Red Shell are not pleased with all of this, obviously, claiming that this is all a case of the public misunderstanding what it’s software does and does not do.
And, look, to some extent, Red Shell might be getting an overly bad rap here. What immediately strikes me is how different this story might be had Red Shell or, more importantly, game publishers simply kept all of this known and above board. If gamers were more informed of what Red Shell software does and on what games it’s included, I doubt the same kind of outcry would be on display. And, if Red Shell’s software is as innocuous as it claims, that kind of disclosure shouldn’t have been a problem.
Instead, everyone acted sneaky and is now claiming frustration at the lack of trust the public didn’t afford them all retroactively.