Is EA Spying On Your Computer Using Origin?

ea-origin-broken-logoPrivacy is a pretty important issue but many companies don’t seem to take the privacy of their customers and users as seriously as they do. The latest company accused of taking their customers’ privacy for granted is EA. Last weekend, a Reddit and Origin user discovered that EA’s Origin client was looking through the files on his computer.

Redditor drsniper121 used a process monitor program to discover that Origin was looking at the files on his computer. WCCF Tech has speculated that this occurs when those processes are running. This is what he discovered Origin looking at (click to enlarge):

The highlighted line is Origin looking at PCSX2 which is a PS2 emulator and has nothing to do with EA or the Origin client. The items above are encrypted with ROT13 encryption. A quick translation of some of these items by WCCF shows that, in addition to PCSX2, Origin saw that drsniper121 was running Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, iTunes and Foxit Reader among other programs. Apparently, it did find Torchlight but that game isn’t part of the Origin store’s offerings.

One possible explanation for this is something that user n1ck_n4m3 has over in /r/technology. In his experience, he’s found that Origin’s file sniffing has added EA games to his Origin client’s library despite having purchased them through Steam rather than Origin.

Meanwhile, pack in /r/PCMasterRace, an Origin representative showed up in the thread stating:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I’ve been working with our live operations team to fully investigate this issue. Origin is not spyware, and there should be no privacy snooping operations of any type. I hope we will be able to update you guys on the investigation soon, we’re gonna get to the bottom of this.

This doesn’t quite fit with EA’s Privacy Policy. Section IV.B.4 reads (emphasis added):

EA also uses its own proprietary analytic metrics tool and other third party analytics technologies to collect information when you use our online products and services and/or play our games on your PC, game system and/or mobile device. These tools and technologies use server log files, web beacons, cookies, tracking pixels and other technologies to collect and analyze certain types of information, including cookies, IP addresses (including for purposes of determining your approximate geographic location), mobile or other hardware device ID or other device identifiers, browser types, browser language, information passed from your browser (if any), referring and exit pages, and URLs, platform type, click information, information about your media, peripheral hardware, software and/or applications installed on your machine and/or device, domain names and types, landing pages, pages viewed and the order of those pages, advertising conversion rates, the date and amount of time spent on particular pages, other Internet and website usage information, game state and the date and time of activity on our websites or games, information about how your game is used, including game metrics and statistics, feature usage and purchase history, as well as unique hardware identifiers such as MAC Address, mobile unique device ID (if applicable) and other similar information.

So, in fact, it’s in the privacy policy that EA says that they can go through your PC (or other device) to see what’s on there from the files on it to the software you’re running on it. At least they’re not tying personal information to the data being collected which is probably better than the data that the NSA gets from some of its friends.

So the answer to the question of is EA spying on your computer appears to be “yes.” The problem is that the answer is perfectly allowable under EA’s privacy policy. That’s the biggest problem with EA and Origin right now.

Sources: WCCF Tech, /r/PCMasterRace, /r/Technology, EA Privacy Policy

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on July 15, 2014, in Games and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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