Bad Press: No, NDTV, Civilization VI Isn’t Milking Its Users For Data

Civilization VI has become the latest Steam title to play victim to review bombing, and players are incredibly unhappy about recent changes to the game’s End User Licence Agreement. But are they correct in their conclusions? It doesn’t seem so.

The gist of the controversy seems to be coming from this particular extension of the EULA:

“The information we collect may include personal information such as your first and/or last name, e-mail address, phone number, photo, mailing address, geolocation, or payment information. In addition, we may collect your age, gender, date of birth, zip code, hardware configuration, console ID, software products played, survey data, purchases, IP address and the systems you have played on. We may combine the information with your personal information and across other computers or devices that you may use.”

It sounds bad, even disturbing if you’re Rishi Alwani writing for NDTV without doing the bare minimum research. You might for instance find out that the quote above doesn’t appear anywhere in Civilization VI’s EULA which Alwani has presumably not even bothered to read or cross-check for accuracy, because if he did he would have found that it doesn’t exist. He might also have found that the last update for the End User License Agreement he is quoting a false version of, was in January 2018. The quote he’s taking as proof of the EULA is citing an old review from last year as well.

It might also have stopped Alwani from making the embarrassingly reckless if not slanderous claim linking the “new” (January 2018) EULA to the notion that Take Two is “milk[ing] its existing user base,” and that this deplorable action is somehow turning Civ VI into spyware to collect on some investments. I’ll throw some calendar knowledge down on Rishi; January 2018 is in fact not one week after February 2019.

“With its earnings call taking place last week before the change to Civilization VI’s EULA, it is possible that its below expectations performance has resulted in a move to milk its existing user base as much as possible. That said, it is deplorable that despite shifting over 17 million units of Red Dead Redemption 2 in under weeks, Take Two still thinks it’s not making enough to keep it or its investors happy, perhaps playing a part in turning Civilization VI into spyware.”

In short, Alwani didn’t bother (1) fact checking anything and (2) didn’t even verify the date of the post he was quoting as though it was official. Don’t quit your day job, Rishi, unless this is your day job in which case you might want to read up about how defamation covers statements made with reckless disregard for facts.

“[r]eads the new EULA for Civilization VI.” No it doesn’t. There is no new EULA. This article falls over itself so hard to try and create a controversy that I thought it worth calling out directly. Where the text does appear is the Take Two privacy policy, and Alwani’s posting of the text leaves out a very important preface that this information corresponds to data gathered through voluntary activity. (click on photo to enlarge)

The personal information that is collected by this policy is in reference to voluntary acts. When you sign up for services, websites, jobs, purchase DLC, post on the forums, respond to surveys, request technical support, download demos, etc, you’re going to voluntarily give information along the lines of your contact info, games you play, your purchases, your PC specs, mailing address, etc, and various other personal information. While playing the games themselves, they are also aggregating information like your achievements, scores, performance, etc. Very basic info.

By the way, the privacy policy was last updated in May 2018, so Alwani is lying both on where the text comes from and when it was added.

Ultimately it’s not some clandestine intelligence gathering operation that you’re agreeing to, nor is it Firaxis or Take Two digging their greedy little hands into your computer to try and find some personal data to sell. Steam user Panic Fire does a great job of explaining why the blowback is undeserved (full text here):

“The “EULA” everyone keeps posting is actually Take 2’s privacy policy and not actually found in the EULA for this game. (Crazy I know) And take 2’s privacy policy covers everything take2 does from Running a forum, technical support, selling products (aka games to you), and all sorts of other things. The points to take home is that all the information gatherd by Take2 in this case are things you directly tell them or that they use to facilitate a direct service to you. (EX giving them your name and credit card information to facilitate an online purchase) Edit: The Privacy policy hasn’t changed since last May and the EULA since Last January.”

You can find Take Two’s EULA here, including all of the details you need to know about what personal information is collected and how. If you don’t want Take Two to get their mitts on your information, your best method is not filling out surveys for their products. If you want to read the actual facts, I suggest avoiding Rishi Alwani’s coverage.

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