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Marketing ‘spyware’ caught in PC games(Steam)

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https://www.polygon.com/2018/6/20/17485762/red-shell-spyware-pc-games-controversy-steam

About 20 PC games — including The Elder Scrolls Online and Conan Exiles — have removed a piece of third-party spyware tracking users’ activity outside of the game, and dozens more are said to still have it more than a week after it came to light on Reddit and Steam forums.

Called Red Shell (yes, it’s named for the Mario Kart item), the spyware sells itself as a means for video game makers to “uncover where their players come from through reliable attribution.” It “matches” whether players with Red Shell installed on their games visited a market’s campaign, whether Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, a web page or others.

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Red shell is a Spyware that tracks data of your PC and shares it with 3rd parties. On their website they formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone i don't trust and whom i never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my pc against my will. This should have no place in a full price PC game, and in no games if it were up to me.

I make this thread to raise awareness of these user unfriendly marketing practices and data mining software that are common on the mobile market, and which are flooding over to our PC Games market. As a person and a gamer i refuse to be data mined. My data is my own and you have no business making money of it.

The announcement yesterday was only from "Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!", but i would consider all their games as on risk to contain that spyware if they choose to include it again, with or without announcement. Also the Publisher of this one title is Daedalic Entertainment, while the others are self published. I would think it could be interesting to check if other Daedalic Entertainment Games have that spyware in it as well. I had no time to do that.

Games who used Redshell which removed or pledged to remove it (as of 26.06.2018):

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Games still using Redshell according to community reports (as of 26.06.2018):

  • Civilization VI,

  • Guardians of Ember (Publisher removed from Steam),

  • The Onion Knights (Publisher removed from Steam),

  • Heroine Anthem Zero,

  • Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade,

  • Krosmaga

  • Eternal Card Game

  • Sniper Ghost Warrior 3

  • Astro Boy: Edge of Time

  • Cabals: Card Blitz

  • CityBattle | Virtual Earth

  • Doodle God

  • Doodle God Blitz

  • Doodle God: Genesis Secrets

  • Labyrinth

  • My Free Farm 2

  • Shadowverse

  • SOS & SOS Classic

  • Stonies

  • War Robots

  • Survived By

  • Injustice 2

  • Warriors: Rise to Glory!

  • League of Pirates

  • Archangel: Hellfire

  • Skyworld

  • The House of Da Vinci

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https://steamed.kotaku.com/16-studios-removing-alleged-spyware-from-pc-games-after-1826966946

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According to Red Shell’s website, their software is meant to help game companies “measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns” by “tying information from marketing campaigns to in-game play.” Basically, it’s installed alongside games and tracks information about your devices (operating system, browser version number, IP address, etc) in order to ascertain how effective advertisements for that particular game are. The company swears up and down that it doesn’t collect personal information.

 
 
 
 
 

“We don’t collect names, emails, or addresses,” Red Shell says on its website, noting that games can offer an opt-out to players if developers so choose. “Our service basically says ‘this computer clicked on a link from this YouTube video and the same computer played your game.’ We have no interest in tracking people, just computers for the purposes of attribution.”

The software has been discovered in over 50 games including The Elder Scrolls Online, Conan Exiles, Hunt: Showdown, and Civilization VI. For the past couple weeks, a contingent of players have dedicated themselves to weeding it out, decrying it as “spyware” that many companies failed to disclose.

“Red Shell is a spyware that tracks data of your PC and shares it with 3rd parties,” Redditor Alexspeed75 wrote last week in a thread that’s became something of a rallying place for aggrieved players. “On their website they formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone I don’t trust and whom I never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my PC against my will. This should have no place in a full price PC game, and in no games if it were up to me.”

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Since then, players of the aforementioned games and many more have started irate threads in Steam forums and subreddits. In many cases, they’ve gotten developers to pledge to remove Red Shell.

“We integrated Red Shell with the goal to track the efficiency of our marketing campaigns (how many players clicked on our advertisements on social media platforms and then purchased the game afterwards). There was never any intention to sell data to third parties,” said the developers of multiplayer horror game Dead By Daylight, expressing a sentiment similar to many other developers who’ve removed Red Shell from their games. “That being said, we have seen the player frustrations expressed about the use of this technology. Our passionate and dedicated fans are the reason why Dead by Daylight is a success, especially the ones who have been with us from the beginning. We have removed Red Shell from Dead by Daylight in the 2.0.0 update.”

As of now, 16 games have either removed Red Shell or have pledged to do so in the near future, including The Elder Scrolls Online, Conan Exiles, Hunt: Showdown, Battlerite, Secret World Legends, Total War, and Warhammer: Vermintide.

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Update - 7:00 PM, 6/19/18: Red Shell’s Adam Lieb responded to our request for comment, saying that he feels like Red Shell has been mischaracterized by some players. “We are disappointed,” he said in an email, noting that Red Shell does not sell data to third parties, nor is it used for ad targeting in the traditional sense (rather, it helps companies sort out which ads they’re already running are worthwhile). “We are gamers. We love games. We do what we do because we love working with game developers to help grow their games and build their communities. The last thing we’d want to do is anything that is going to upset their communities.”

He added that, contrary to some people’s belief, Red Shell doesn’t run on your PC in the background when games aren’t open. Data collection, meanwhile, is in service of attribution, rather than more nefarious ends some players have suggested.

“We collect the minimum amount of data necessary to do attribution,” he said. “Our customers rely on us to tell them which activities they’re engaged in are working and which ones aren’t. Any information that doesn’t help us make those matches we don’t collect.”

 

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Oh no! I was playing Kerbal Space Program and a few more from the list, I am glad to know that the games I played have removed the spyware software. Why do they this though, if someone can explain this in simple terms.

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