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Internet Explodes Over Origin's Invasion of Privacy

| 24 Aug 2011 16:25
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The internet is aflame with rage over the discovery that the user agreement for EA's Origin service allows it to collect and transmit any data it wants about your computer and what you're doing with it.

Our own sharp-eyed forum users [Dirty Hipsters in particular] pointed out a rather disturbing clause in the Terms of Service for EA's new Origin digital distribution platform. Here it is in its entirety:

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.

By installing Origin, in other words, you're agreeing to the TOS, and by agreeing to the TOS you're giving EA the green light to poke and prod around your computer, suck up information about your hardware, your software - and not just games, mind you, but everything - and what you do with it when you think nobody's looking. Want to opt out? You can't, except by not installing it at all, which of course means you don't get to play anything that requires Origin, including the long-anticipated Battlefield 3.

Origin isn't the only service that collects user data for various purposes, including marketing, but its TOS allow it to scan for an uncomfortably broad range of information. Valve, for instance, collects user information "to improve Valve's products and online sites, for internal marketing studies, or simply to collect demographic information about Valve's users," but it's limited to a far narrower range of data. And even though EA's data collection practices in all likelihood won't be any different than Valve's, the worrying point is that they could be.

It's probably not going to win Origin any fans but how much impact it ultimately has on the service's long-terms fortunes is hard to predict. It is a grotesque invasion of privacy, but mainstream attitudes toward such things, as evidenced by Facebook, have changed a lot in recent years. There's also the fact that an awful lot of people really want to play Battlefield 3, many of whom will probably never even hear about - or care about - this in the first place.

If you're sufficiently outraged to actually take up the fight, the good folks at Reddit have compiled a list of contact numbers and email addresses for EA public relations reps in the U.S. and U.K., giving you the opportunity to express your displeasure and demand answers from people who might actually be able to provide them. In the meantime, we'll keep an eye open for EA's reaction to the uproar, with hopes that it moves to a less intrusive user agreement. Fingers crossed; I really want to play Battlefield 3.

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