Privacy: Another Reason Why I Won't Use Origin By Electronic Arts

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 25, 2011
Updated • Nov 25, 2012

Some days ago I canceled my pre-order of the Battlefield 3 Limited edition for Windows PCs. It was a reaction on the news that the game would ship without ingame server browser, which had been replaced by a server browser in an external web browser.

This meant that you had to keep Origin, the distribution platform running in the background, the web browser to select a game and the game itself. Changing servers meant to close down the game, select a new match and server in the web browser to start the game anew.

While I have not tried the system yet, I'd say that it is less practicable than a built-in functional server browser (to be honest, not a single server browser of a Battlefield game was that, but that's another story).

Back in the good old games of gaming, I would have probably bought the game anyway. Today, I want to make a stand against all the "features" that hurt legit customers. That's one of the reasons why I did not buy From Dust, even though I would really like to play the game. I also skipped the Modern Warfare series ever since its developers started to drop dedicated server support.

It now came to light that Origin, EA's new online distribution system (not to mix up with the classic game developer that EA bought and killed), adds another issue that could convince some gamers not to use that system. Users who sign up need to accept the EULA which gives EA massive rights to collect, use, save and transfer user data. It reads under (2):

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.

Gamers either have to accept that EA may collect, use, store and transmit data like their computer's IP address, software, application usage and hardware, or they may not install or use the application.

EA may furthermore transfer the data in anonymized form to third party companies. Rock Paper Shotgun puts it this way:

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.

The site furthermore compares EA's clause with a comparable Steam clause and comes to the conclusion that Valve's "policy is self-restricted to anything on your PC directly relating to its own products" while 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".

If I would not already have canceled Battlefield 3, I would now.


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  1. asdfasdf said on February 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I really wanted this game until i read about spying electronic arts origin software and their horrible eula and privacy terms. Overall they can spy everything you do on computer and internet and know about all your files and have identification data. Fuck EA.

  2. Roman ShaRP said on August 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Posted link to this on my blog. Yes, this is outrageous.

  3. dw4rf_t055 said on August 26, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Well I guess at the least it isn’t a shitty matchmaking system like Left 4 Dead has. Why it and it’s sequels don’t let you actually…pick your own damn server is beyond me. Could have been an optional feature, too.

    After reading, I am on the fence about this browser based server browser. Seems a bit half-assed. Also, love to hear people speak out against bullshit like Origin is trying to do. In this Failbook day and age, it isn’t surprising to hear that others want in on the goldmine of freely given marketing data.

    1. Roy said on August 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Actually L4D has a decent (in-game) server browser. I suppose every Source-game does. You just need to know how to activate it, as it is not available in the main menu. Google will help you.

    2. dw4rf_t055 said on August 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

      …and more to the point, if indeed Origin actually DOES attempt to scan outside of it’s install folder for God knows what, then that is the very definition of lame. Such practice really needs to be exposed for the BS it is.

      But then again, your average gamer is probably stupid, and they know that. There just aren’t enough conscientious objectors to make a dent in their sales, unfortunately.

      1. Bob said on August 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

        I don’t think the average gamer is stupid, I think the average person is just too complacent, and ignorant about what a lack of privacy means. They don’t think it matters until things are to a 1984 type level.

  4. Prophet said on August 26, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Yea I will cancel as well.

  5. Anonymous said on August 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Maybe you should consider an more educated view instead of just hyping up more fear and distrust.

    As for the server browser, its works fine in the alpha, and game load times after choosing a server is seconds. You are in a game faster than bad company 2.
    And if your pc can’t idle a browser in the background while gaming, it won’t be able to play BF3 anyway.

    Stop with the FUD please.

    1. Bob said on August 26, 2011 at 4:41 am

      Making assumptions on what terms of service wording really means is ridiculous. Assumptions do not hold up in court, so to make them in a legally binding contract is not the most intelligent decision a person could make. Also, please refrain from posting links to other forums written by third parties on the same subject matter as “educated.” Until EA clarifies what they have written in their own tos as something other than what people are taking it as, there is no refutation of what was stated in this article.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

      As I said before, everything works better than the Bad Company 2 browser. Yes, this makes the web based browser better than the ingame browser of BC2. I’m happy for you and every other gamer who will play BF3.

      I on the other hand do not want to use an external game browser to play games. I think it is stupid and ineffective, and I won’t change my opinion just because you or others do not think it is an issue. Again: I do not play games that I need to quit every time I want to change the server.

      1. Sublym3 said on August 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

        Not attacking you… but I think you have gone over the top in attacking a system you have not used.

        No one makes good in-game server browsers anymore. I think it is good that EA/DICE is trying another take on this. People who have played the alpha have said it works quite well.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 26, 2011 at 11:35 am

        The TF2 browser is actually pretty good.

  6. David said on August 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I think? You should refer to people who have actually played the game instead of making uninformed opinions.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      I do not need to do that. I know that an external method where you have to quit the game to select a new server in another program is always inferior to a properly build ingame server browser. Please accept this so that we are done with the discussion. If you want to play the game fine, do it, no one is stopping you.

  7. David said on August 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    So let me get this straight… You cancelled your pre-order because DICE is using a better system to find games?

    I can understand cancelling because of the DRM… But because of the out of game server browser that’s a 100 times quicker and better than an in-game server browser?

    You should try talking to people who have already played Alpha. Your old enough to write articles, you should be old enough to research.

    1. Bob said on August 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      If you don’t find the terms of service information disturbing and insulting, then you sir are an idiot. That kind of thing belongs in an Orwellian story, not reality. Enjoy your spyware game, until EA puts an end to these kind of practices they will always be known as the evil empire of gaming. No matter that Activision is larger.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      David, you can compare the shitty ingame browsers of previous BF games with the web based server browser all you want. Sure it is better. Everything is better than that. That does not mean that it is not possible to create a better and faster ingame server browser. I do not care how good or bad you think it works. For me, that’s a no go.

  8. bastik said on August 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing that on a website which doesn’t cover games by default. It’s a nice “extra” to read something like that here.

    Just bad that you have to write about it. And then they complain that they don’t sell enough games.

    The collection of such data is just ridiculous. I wouldn’t want anything to collect it no matter how useful or legit the software is.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm

      You are welcome.

  9. joe said on August 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    canceled my pre-order based on server browser news too, and feel better about it after hearing about Origin’s EULA.

    i guess i’ll be playing a lot of Dota2. I hope Activision/Blizzard doesn’t ruin Diablo 3.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm

      Diablo3 is a borderline case for me currently. I dislike the always on “feature” as they call it.

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