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EA Origin EULA sparks privacy concerns

Mandatory licensing agreement for online service appears to indicate publisher can monitor, pass on data on all software installed on users' PC.


Electronic Arts has been investing heavily in online distribution and connected gaming over the past few years, and one of the biggest of those investments is its new service, Origin. A full-on replacement for the EA Store, Origin serves as a hub and infrastructure for downloading and playing PC games, as well as ordering boxed products for other platforms.

Violating the American people's privacy wouldn't be such non sequitur in Battlefield 3.
Violating the American people's privacy wouldn't be such non sequitur in Battlefield 3.

However, speculation has arisen that Origin serves as a clandestine way for EA to intrude upon users' privacy. Posting to The Escapist's message boards, forum user Dirty Hipsters called out Origin's End User Licensing Agreement, claiming that not only does the verbiage allow EA to "monitor your PC and to make a profile of you," but also detect "illegally downloaded material" and see what websites have been viewed.

Consulting Origin's EULA, the passage in question can be found in Sections 2 and 3, titled "Consent to Collection and Use of Data" and "Application Communications and Conduct/Privacy Settings," respectively. When EA refers to the "Application" in this context, EA notes that it is in reference to Origin and all related software, documentation, and updates.

"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," Section 2 reads.

"EA may also use this information combined with personal information for marketing purposes and to improve our products and services," the section continues. "We may also share that data with our third party service providers in a form that does not personally identify you."

The Section 3 passage reads: "EA reserves the right to monitor communications on the Application and disclose any information EA deems necessary to (i) ensure your compliance with this License; (ii) satisfy any applicable law, regulation or legal process; (iii) protect the rights, property and interests of EA, its employees or the public. EA also reserves the right to edit, refuse to transfer and/or to remove any information or materials, in whole or in part, in EA's sole discretion."

The EULA goes on to note that if users do not agree to EA's collection of this type of data, they should not install the application. It also says that this data is being used in accordance with EA's privacy policy, which among other statements, states that, "EA will never share your personal information with third parties without your consent." However, it is unclear how EA's privacy policy is compatible with the rights reserved in Section 3 of Origin's EULA, if at all.

As with most legal language, the extent to which EA is able to use this EULA to monitor users is open to interpretation. However, the EULA is markedly different from EA's standard PC software agreement. For EA's standard PC EULA, the "Consent to Use of Data" section is more narrowly confined to "technical and related information that identifies your computer (including an Internet Protocol Address and hardware identification), operating system and application software and peripheral hardware."

The addition of the "software, software usage" verbiage could be interpreted as including the ability to monitor any installed program, regardless of its provenance. EA's Origin EULA also adds the right for the publisher to share whatever it finds with anyone it chooses.

EA has run into privacy concerns in the past. Most notably, in 2006, the publisher first revealed that it had begun collecting users' data as a way to target and deliver in-game advertisements to players.

EA had not responded to GameSpot's request for comment on the matter as of press time.

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