After reading through the terms of service for the Epic Games Store, some gamers have recoiled at the idea that Epic would have so much unfiltered access to the personal and private data of its users. This also fed into fears that Tencent Games would also have access to users’ private data, especially given all the news surrounding China getting a hold of personal data through social media services, as reported by Silicon Republic.
There’s a hard to miss Reddit post over on the PC Gaming sub-reddit, where users have begun discussing just how much access Epic has of your user data, and what they might be using it for.
The data is collected whenever anyone uses the Epic Games services for registering or logging into games like Fortnite or Unreal Tournament, as well as using any of the social features or applications from third-party affiliate websites.
The thing that set everyone’s alarm bells off was the next passage, relating to Epic Games sharing user data with its family of companies…
“We may share personal information we collect within our family of companies. We also will share information with service providers that perform services on our behalf and under our instructions. These service providers are not authorized by us to use or disclose the information except as necessary to perform services on our behalf or comply with legal requirements. We also may share certain limited information, such as device identifiers, with advertisers and other marketing partners for purposes of gauging the effectiveness of advertising and other marketing strategies.
“If you purchase a game from the Epic Games store, we may share your information with the developer or publisher of the game to support your gameplay and permit them to contact you for appropriate purposes.”
This also ties into a later part of the policy, where Epic notes that it may transfer information outside of the jurisdiction where the end-user is located, and share that information with its partners or affiliates…
“As part of our international operations, we may transfer information about you to any jurisdiction where we do business. When you use our websites, games, game engines, or applications, you acknowledge that we may transfer information about you as described in this policy.
“We will transfer your personal information for any of the purposes identified in this policy to our subsidiaries, affiliates, service providers, and business partners that may be located outside of the jurisdiction where you are located. The laws in those jurisdictions may not provide the same level of data protection compared to the laws in your country. However, we will treat your personal information as subject to the protections described in this policy. “
In layman terms, what this means is that if you live in the U.S., Epic can share your user data with with its partners in China, for instance.
As noted by various users across several sub-reddits, this actually goes against the GDPR standards. This is detailed over on the Privacy Regulation website, where it explains that in order to be in compliance with the law, companies must allow users to opt-out before automatically opting them into advertising campaigns, data sharing programs, or any other service facility that makes use of user data beyond the initial scope of the end-user’s knowledge. In other words, before any company does anything with your data, they must inform you about it first.
Epic Games founder, Tim Sweeney, hopped into the thread to quell some of the outrage over the post, explaining…
“Epic does not share user data with Tencent or any other company. We don’t share it, sell it, or broker access to it for advertising like so many other companies do.
“I’m the founder and controlling shareholder of Epic and would never allow this to happen.
“The language related to sharing data with the parent companies refers to Epic Games Inc. It’s a US-based company. This language exists because when you buy an Epic game in certain territories (like Europe), the seller of record is our local (e.g. European) subsidiary company for tax purposes, but the data is ultimately stored by Epic Games Inc.
“Tencent is not a parent company of Epic. Tencent is an independent company that’s a minority investor in Epic, alongside many others. However they do not have any sort of access to our customer data.”
This comment didn’t go down too well with the other users, many of whom claimed that Tencent was the main controller over Epic Games even though Sweeney claimed that Tencent was just a minority stake holder in some of Epic’s shares. A few more claimed that the current digital distribution landscape is completely anti-consumer.
Others peppered Sweeney on the fact that the Epic Games Store was still in violation of the GDPR and didn’t seem very pro-consumer. Sweeney responded by trying to explain that the Epic Games Store was more dev friendly, writing…
“It’s up to you guys to decide what’s anti-consumer, but our aim with the Epic Games store is to be very pro-competitive. In other words, to compete as a store and encourage healthy competition between stores. […]
“[…] For users, I get that it’s yet another launcher and if you have Steam installed you’d prefer to just use it. But if you want way better games to be built in the future, then please recognize what good this store can do. Steam takes 30% and Epic takes 12%. That’s an 18% difference, and most devs make WAY less than an 18% profit margin – so this can be the difference between being able to fund a new game and going bankrupt!”
Does that mean that if Lawbreakers had just launched on the Epic Games Store Cliffy B., and Boss Key Productions wouln’t have gone broke after getting woke?
Anyway, gamers still weren’t convinced of Sweeney’s sweet soothsaying. They still criticized the Epic Games Store for not really giving consumers any sort of significant price reduction compared to Steam despite having lower distribution fee overhead compared to Steam. They also continued to note that they didn’t like how Epic still had so much control over the user’s privacy data, to which Sweeney opted not to address.
(Thanks for the news tip zac za and NeoGaf)