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 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: punkbuster

    I have it from a reliable source (but of course "I am authorized to comment" ) that EA learned a lot of things from the Spore fiasco and SecuROM.

    As for the main article I am confident it is not maliciousness. I think it is the corporate lawyer arm being overly cautious and inclusive because they misinterpreted some of the requests from the Origin Development arm's request to allow telemetry tracking data around the Origin application and the games it runs. Plus to allow the requirements around apps like punkbuster and Metafortress. There is some marketing data collected but that is more around what Origin games you own so they can promote deals (like paid extra content).

    In a lot of ways it is the same thing as what Google+, Facebook, Android Market place, Amazon, Costco and any supermarket cards do. They look at what you have and buy so they market to you to get you to buy more. (I am not saying it is always done in a fair balanced way).

    With EA you have a company that is trying to change from being a "Sell boxes with disks' to a digital company. And it is not trying to do it by litigating to keep old business models afloat.
    But at the same time it is a creative company that is willing to make mistakes and learn from them. I think their lawyers 'learned' from past lawsuits against EA. Once again the lawyers win.

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