Epic Games Store isn’t spying but does scan Steam local cache

JC Torres - Mar 17, 2019, 7:54 pm CDT
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Epic Games Store isn’t spying but does scan Steam local cache

Epic Games almost started to become the shining beacon in the gaming industry with its launch of the very developer-friendly Epic Games Store. Thanks to its zeal to get developers and games onboard, however, it has started to be painted in a less favorable light. The latest controversy the game publisher has found itself in involves accusations of spying, for China even. The company naturally denies the admittedly flimsy association but does own up to peeking into the Steam data stored on PCs.

The accusation of spying for the Chinese government, or at least a Chinese company, is whimsical at best and piggybacks on recent controversies hounding Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE. The allegation is mostly based on Tencent being a shareholder and, therefore, Epic Games is spying for the Chinese government. Aside from making the assumption that Tencent, by simple virtue of being a Chinese company, is in cahoots with the government, it also implies that companies share customer data with shareholders, something that Epic Games VP of Engineering Daniel Vogel refutes.

Those accusations and concerns, however, were not without foundation. Some people have taken it upon themselves to analyze the activities of the Epic Games Store launcher and saw that it actively scanned the computer and sent data back to the mothership. Vogel doesn’t deny this but clarifies that it only collects the data it needs for improving its service and making sure everything is running properly. You know, the usual stuff almost everyone agrees to in privacy policies without reading them fully. Then again, the legalese they’re written in almost makes it sure nobody does.

The one mistake Epic did make and, to its credit, owned up to, is “scanning” users’ Steam data stored locally on the same PC. What it actually does is make an encrypted copy of that private data but Epic insists that it only actually reads your friends list and sends hashed IDs after you’ve given it permission to do so. CEO Tim Sweeney admits that they should have only made a copy of that file after users have given their consent, not before, and promises to fix it soon.

Valve, for its part, isn’t that amused. It explains that such data is private to the user and shouldn’t be used by any third-party. It does have an API for that but Epic Games refuses to use those for security reasons, not to mention to avoid depending on Steam in the first place. Valve promises to investigate the issue, which only puts the two rivals at odds even further.


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