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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.
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.

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.

Filed Under: eula, personal info
Companies: ea

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2011 @ 10:24am

    Re: Piraters

    That is hilarious. The death of PC gaming has been long predicted. Never happened. Never will. And I'll tell you why:

    PCs have the highest specs available in any gaming platform and the least restrictions. ANYONE can make a mind-bogglingly awesome game for the PC with freely available tools. Not so in the console.

    But because of this, PC gamers are also a lot more demanding. While console gamers would put up with a half-assed game, with no modding support or something as simple as the ability to managing your own key bindings (for example), PC gamers are much more vocal and express their distaste violently.

    You see, PC gamers are used to being able to configure every little bit of their games. They also like to tweak things in .ini files and hack the game code. They also enjoy modding the game to make it more awesome.

    Now, game makers hate this with a fury that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. I mean, why the heck should I, big shot programmer, take 2 minutes to make a menu where you can setup the key bindings. Or take 10 minutes to make a dedicated server? That stuff is hard work!

    Also, they don't very much like people modding their games because (in their puny minds), allowing mods is like admitting that you were wrong the first time around, and someone had to come by and make your game better.

    So, no, piracy is not destroying the PC games. It's just a convenient excuse. They'll come around. Like Mr. "We won't make a PC version of Super Street Fighter IV for the PC because of the pirates" Capcom did. They always do.

    Signed: AC, proud PC games and PWNER of console players since 19XX.

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