2K Games have taken the curious and welcome step of explaining what data Civilization VI collects about you, your computer, and your play – and why. It’s fairly common for games from big publishers to report back, but rare for publishers to say what it’s doing and why. The license we have to agree to ostensibly gives them permission, after all. Most evidently don’t think it’s in their best interests to be open, which is unfortunate because it is in ours. Whether you’re okay with how much data they collect, ah, that’s up to you; at least now we can make a more-informed decision.
Hoping to address concerns and halt negative player reviews on Steam, yesterday 2K laid out what they’re collecting and why.
“Civilization VI collects telemetry for gameplay actions like session start/stop times, system information (e.g. video card type/DXX11 and DX12 devices), in-game economics, tech boosts, game settings and other stats that help with our ongoing commitment to improve the gameplay experience and make the AI a better player. We collect select hardware information for tuning the game to run better on the wide variety of systems used by our players. We also may collect bug reports containing game logs; these help us proactively fix bugs without users having to contact our Customer Service department.”
That’s what they say they’re collecting, at least. And that’s… not too bad, about what I’d expect. I’m even in favour of them gathering play data to fine-tune balance and improve, if it’s something I know they’re doing. If this is all they’re doing, eh, sure, I’ll still play Civ 6.
While upset around Civ 6 has simmered for over a year, I would not be surprised if 2K choosing this particular week to be more open was partially motivated by the recent furor over Epic’s Store client poking into users’ Steam accounts. Now is a good time to come clean.
The issue still stands that 2K–and so many other publishers with so many other games–have sprawling, borderline-illegible EULAs and privacy policies that lay claim to rights far beyond this. These often claim permission to share data with marketers, stores, governments, and other third-parties, data which can include things like your address, photo, and phone number. Even if publishers don’t use this to awful ends, they’re saying they have the right to – and should not be at all surprised when people find this upsetting.
I’m definitely in favour of companies explaining what data they intend to gather and why, in plain language rather than legalese. If the legalese is claiming permission to do more than the plain-language explanation says, then companies should either explain it or cut it. Ideally cut it.
Of course, all this pales in comparison to what Google and Facebook and such do on a daily basis. They’re proven to be reshaping society in terrible ways, from interfering with elections, through Brexit, to spreading and normalising so many forms of hate. Wah wah wahhh. Throw me back into the sea, I want out.