Earlier this year there was a lot of fuss — and rightfully so — over EA’s Origin software and the amount of data it collected from the users’ computers. EA later updated its privacy statements, removing a few clauses.
Now there’s another privacy issue that may have huge implications for Battlefield 3 players. It concerns Battlefield 3′s anti-cheat software PunkBuster, made by EvenBalance, Inc. The license agreement gives PunkBuster the right to not only scan all files on a users PC system, but to take actual screenshots and to publicize those screenshots. When installing PunkBuster, part of the agreement reads:
Licensee understands and agrees that the information that may be inspected and reported by PunkBuster software includes, but is not limited to, Licensee’s Internet Protocol Address, devices and any files residing on the hard-drive and in the memory of the computer on which PunkBuster software is installed. Licensee acknowledges and agrees that if Licensee does not want Licensor to collect and process such information, Licensee should not use the PunkBuster software.
Further, Licensee consents to allow PunkBuster software to transfer actual screenshots taken of Licensee’s computer during the operation of PunkBuster software for possible publication.
While it’s understandable that anti-cheat software has to monitor certain files and processes for hacks, the license agreement goes far beyond that, much like Origin’s original licensing agreement.
“…our software will not perform “hard disk scans” looking through large portions of users’ directories and/or file systems.”
Which is contradictory to the real, legally binding License Agreement that users have to accept when installing the software, which permits PunkBuster to inspect any “devices and any files residing on the hard-drive and in the memory of the computer on which PunkBuster software is installed”.
To make matters worse, PunkBuster is technically “optional” for Battlefield 3, but it’s almost impossible to play online without having the software enabled. And it’s not just Battlefield 3 that uses PunkBuster — all previous Battlefield games and many Call of Duty titles use the software.
This is yet another case of PC gaming software that takes things too far, giving it a broad set of options and rights to collect and disseminate users’ information.