As quite a few may be aware, Electronic Arts recently began an aggressive push for their digital games distribution service, Origin. Many players looking to get their digital copies of games like Battlefield 3 or Star Wars: The Old Republic will probably download and use their service. Unfortunately, this is going to come at a high price to privacy.
The big news first hit on the forums of popular gaming website, The Escapist. From there, it quickly spread to Reddit and to other larger gaming outlets. Slowly but surely people are beginning to piece together what this all means.
Hidden in the fine print in EA's End User License Agreement there is a little clause that grants EA a few invasive powers. They have the right to use Origin to see all the software you use, each website you visit, and to share all data collected on you with third parties. Usually this sort of clause only extends to what is self contained and directly related to the service you install. EA's, on the other hand, is incredibly broad and potentially invasive. The actual EULA states:
This revelation has a few interesting possibilities. First, and possibly the most realistic result of this clause is that you will end up with much better targeted spam, banner ads, etc. EA stands to make a lot of money on the sale of data many unwittingly provide. This isn't necessarily a terrible thing, but it definitely is obnoxious that this sort of practice isn't a little more obvious to consumers.
Second, any amount of illegal software or pirated media you have on your computer will be indexed. At this point, either they can contact you using the personal information they have collected, wait until an investigation is out on you for something like digital piracy and turn over all data cooperatively, or they will be pro-active and immediately pass information along to the relevant authorities. EA admits that personal information linked to the user only gets removed during the sale of said information, so this scenario is certainly possible.
Both scenarios are rather frustrating for PC gamers, and with good reason. If you want to play some of EA's best AAA titles on your computer, you absolutely need Origin. Even if you purchase the physical copy of the game you still have to have the Origin client running, or so my Twitter reading skills deduce. Either you get spied on, or you don't get to play some of the biggest titles like Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3, etc. In many ways, this is some of the most restrictive DRM possible. Unlike Ubisoft's always-on DRM, Origin is actively collecting data while it is always on.
Do you read EULAs before you click "Okay" or "Agree"? It's revelations like this that really make me wonder how much time I should devote to reading them all the way through.