Are players getting
Most of us don’t read the privacy
policies and terms of service of
the online platforms we use for
Image: (Aguado, 2011)
It’s estimated it would take you 244
hours to read the privacy policies
for all the websites you visit in a year
(McDonald & Cranor, 2008, p. 563).
They’re time consuming.
Image: (Wickramanayaka, 2014)
Research has found that even experts
in law struggle to interpret privacy
policies (Reidenberg et al., 2015).
And they’re confusing.
Image: (CollegeDegrees360, 2012)
Still, they’re worth our attention as these
policies often diminish the rights of
To illustrate, let’s explore the policies of
the popular online service Steam.
We’ll look at how these policies
effect ownership and privacy,
and the unfairness of Steam’s
dispute resolution clauses.
Image: (Kit, 2007)
Steam is an online PC gaming and
social network platform owned by the
software company Valve.
Image: Screenshot http://store.steampowered.com/, 2016
It has over 125 million users worldwide
Multiple hacks have
exposed the personal
information of its users
(Good, 2011; Grill, 2015).
Image: (The Preiser Project, 2014)
And recently Valve was sued by a
consumer group alleging Steam’s
policies violated the rights of
consumers (Nutt, 2015).
Image: (Gratz, 2006)
Image: Screenshot http://steamcommunity.com/discussions/, 2016
On Steam you can:
• Access, play and review games
• Share your videos and artwork
• Create and share game content
• Join discussion boards and chat in-game
To create a Steam account you must
agree to Steam’s Subscriber Agreement
You may think you buy games on Steam, but
that’s not entirely accurate.
What you buy are subscriptions to games
If you or Valve cancel your account, these
subscriptions end without refund and
you are no longer allowed to play your
games (Valve, 2016).
Valve can cancel your account if you break
the terms of the Subscriber Agreement or
Steam’s rules of conduct, which Valve can
change whenever they want (Valve, 2016).
Image: (Indruch, 2009)
While it’s likely digital content providers set
these restrictions to protect against
piracy (Wong, 2013, p. 733) …
… they effectively hold valuable content to
ransom, pressuring us to continue using their
services and accepting the terms they set.
Image: (James, 2013)
We do own some content on Steam.
The content we create and make
public on social media, such as
reviews, videos and artworks, are
our intellectual property.
Image: Screenshot http://steamcommunity.com/?subsection=images, 2016
The agreement grants Valve many of the
powers of a copyright owner over our
content, such as being free to modify it
and create derivative works that solely
belong to them (Valve, 2016).
Image: (Paz, 2010)
Tech companies and users are co-creators of
social media sites (Schumann, von Wangenheim, & Groene, 2014, p. 66) …
If users didn’t add content to Steam’s
community section, who would visit it?
Image: (Berge, 2010)
… yet we seem to come out second-best
in the relationship.
When we agree to Steam’s terms we
lose control over content we own
and Gain no property rights over the
content we spend money on.
Valve collects from Steam users
Anonymous Data & Personally
Anonymous data supposedly can’t
identify you. It can include your browsing
history, purchase history, gender and postal
Image: (überBusy, 2006)
Valve can share this data with anyone
(Valve, 2015) because it isn’t considered a
threat to privacy …
… even though there are methods that
exist that can link this data back to
individuals (Marwick & boyd, 2014, p. 1053; Narayanan
& Shmatikov, 2010, p. 25).
It collects this data in order to study
consumer habits (Valve, 2015).
Many companies do this so they can
personalise their services and create
targeted advertising (Brown & Muchira, 2004).
Image: (Vance, 2007)
Valve does not specify or give us
options over what anonymous data
is collected from us.
Basically, we’re being profiled
in ways we can’t see or control
based on online behaviour that
may not reﬂect who we are
(van Wel & Royakkers, 2004, p. 133).
Image: (Lund, 2007)
Personally identifiable information
is information volunteered by users “that can
be used to uniquely identify a user such as
name, address or credit card number” (Valve, 2015).
Image: (Ivanushkin, 2009)
It’s not mentioned how long Valve
keeps this information.
Image: (Cholet, 2011)
You can ask for it to be removed
from Valve’s records …
… but the request can be denied
for vague various reasons such as if
the request is deemed “extremely
impractical” (Valve, 2015).
Image: (fdecomite, 2012)
Government surveillance requests for
customer data from tech companies is
on the rise (Schechner, 2016) …
Valve may release our information to
authorities “to comply with court orders
or laws”(Valve, 2015).
It makes no promises to resist such
requests or to notify users when they
When we’re vulnerable to
scrutiny, it changes the way
we act (Introna, 1997, p. 268).
Image: (ep_jhu, 2010)
Online surveillance concerns have seen
22% of American internet users
change their online behaviour
(Rainie & Madden, 2015).
When we use Steam, we compromise
our privacy, threatening our ability
to define our actions and ourselves.
Many of us are happy to exchange
our personal information and user
content for a great online service
(Schumann, von Wangenheim, & Groene, 2014, p. 70).
Image: (Magal, 2011)
But is it fair that we’re forced
to relinquish so much control
in these exchanges?
It’s in a company’s economic interest
to have control over our data and content
but so is maintaining the trust of their
customers (Peacock, 2014, p. 7; Dean, Payne, & Landry, 2016, p. 500).
Expressing our concerns to tech companies can
help us regain power over our information and
Image: (kunkelstein, 2007)
… And so can better legislation. In Steam’s
policies you’ll notice that European Union
users are given greater consideration.
This is because the EU has stricter laws
governing privacy and consumer rights
(Bogdan, 2015; Curtis, 2016).
Image: (Allen, 2010)
Online terms of service are “exploitative,
unjust, unavoidable” and one-sided
(Peacock, 2014, p. 7).
But that can change.
Learn more about online privacy and
Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Me and My Shadow
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