Owlcat walks back on super invasive (suspicious) spyware.

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Jan 14, 2020
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So Owlcat, developer of the Pathfinder series and upcoming Warhammer Rogue Trader, just caused an uproar by implementing what is essentially aggressive spyware without user consent, users pointed out that this was illegal in the EU to do, you apparently have to provide the option to opt out. They quickly walked back on it as uproar continued.

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As one Steam user pointed out:


I don't accept the new EULA. Under GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) users have to accept any form of data collection. I don't accept by any means external or internal apps collecting data from my computer.

I cannot revert the patch, and I cannot downgrade the game to older versions, and if I decline the EULA the game kicks me to the desktop. This app was not included at game release.

Owlcat should provide a solution to this problem."

"Q&A" from their Steam page in case it gets purged.

Hello, Pathfinders!

There have been a lot of questions about the update of EULA. Here we try to answer to all of your concerns.

Q: What has happened?

A: With an update, we have introduced Appsflyer — an advertising tracking solution used by marketers to improve ad campaigns. To reflect this addition, we have updated the End User License Agreement with specific data it collects.

Q: How does this Appsflyer work?

A: Appsflyer is an analytics platform that connects data received from the advertisers and from the game build to find a match and mark the install or purchase as a result of an ad campaign. In detail, it makes a fingerprint of the device when the user clicks on some ad on the internet (usually by using cookies) or social media and stores it on its server. Another fingerprint is made when the advertised game is launched — and if there is a match, the platform can mark this specific purchase as impacted by advertisement.

With our game, we have implemented Appsflyer SDK, that allows us to collect data to form a fingerprint and send it to Appsflyer server for matching with existing data provided by advertising platforms and websites. This data is limited to a specific list (you may find it below) and contains the user's IP address. We do not install any spyware or local software on the computer — it is basically a webhook to transfer certain data when an event occurs.

Q: What data does Appsflyer collect?

A: It collect the following set of data:
- IP address
- Timestamp (date and time the game been launched)
- Platform where the game has been played (i.e. Steam)
- Game Version and Game ID
- OS version of the PC
And that is it. The combination of this data forms a “fingerprint” that is sent to Appsflyer and used for matching. It does not have access to anything else: it doesn’t get access to the browser, it doesn’t track anything besides the listed above, etc.

Q: When the data is collected?
A: The data starts collecting after the EULA is accepted.

Q: Where can I read the EULA before downloading an update?
A: For your convenience, we have uploaded the EULA to our website, you can read it here:

Q: And do you really need that?
A: Yes, studios and publishers need to understand the impact of their advertising efforts. It helps improve advertisement strategies a lot, especially when they lack massive budgets to bombard everyone with their ads.

Q: The paragraph 3.1 in the EULA contains other things that are collected, like “CPU, RAM, operating system, video card, sound card, software and application of the other developers, peripherals, geolocation and any other anonymous technical and statistical information from User's computer”. Where it goes to?

A: This data is used for collecting bug reports and the Unity analytics tool to track game performance and has been present in the EULA since the game was launched. It is collected separately from the Appsflyer data and is NOT used for marketing in any way. It could be transferred only to vendors (Unity to analyze) or QA subcontractors (we don’t use any but at some point we thought we might need some external help here).

Q: Why did we need to add this into the patchnotes?

A: As we updated the EULA due to the adding the Appsflyer, we wanted to explain why exactly the EULA has been updated.

Q: Why is the weight of the patch so big?

A: Because of the new Unity version. It is not related to the EULA update in any connection.
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“especially when they lack massive budgets”

As if Games Workshop doesn’t have boatloads of cash on hand to pay for some ads. It sounds very weird to me. It makes you wonder if it was purely Owlcat’s decision to implement this advertising spyware, or if GW was planning on implementing it in all their games. Either way, this is definitely not okay and makes me less excited to try Rogue Trader.
I believe Owlcat has moved their headquarters and main development office out of Russia. Even if that's untrue, as I don't remember where I heard it, they had to have started the Warhammer game prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

Personally, I don't have a problem with Appsflyer. The data collected off of your computer is basic data that could be collected without Appsflyer. The difference is that they use this data to identify you to Appsflyer so they can get your marketing history and let them know if and where you saw their ads for their games. This is not even close to as bad as what Google, Facebook, and Twitter are doing to everyone who goes to their sites. What's more, any site you accept cookies from is probably tracking your every step around the web, anyway. Privacy is just not something that exists online without extraordinary measures on the user's part.
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