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PC Games (Games)

Submission + - Is the Steam client a spyware/trojan? (

An anonymous reader writes: The Steam client (from Valve Software) is becoming more and more popular every day. It's claimed that it has already been downloaded by 15 million people. Recently EA announced that they will be bundling Steam client with many of their most popular titles in such a way that the Steam client must be installed in order to run the games. Sega/CA, who publish the Total War games have also announced a forced bundling of the Steam client with the upcomig release of Empire: Total War ( there is an informative thread discussion at , but the board is run by CA and they have locked the thread).

Although Steam is billed as a mechanism for enabling online and multiplayer gameplay, it also has a DRM component — part of what the Steam client does is run in the background, spying on many of the processes running on the user's PC and examining local files.

What's especially sinister, though, is that the Steam subscriber agreement ( ), which has to be agreed to in order to install the Steam client, does not restrict the activities of the Steam client at all, and in fact, explicitly grants Steam the right to install any software that they wish onto the user's PC without notifying or informing the user.

In addition, the Steam subscriber agreement also gives Steam/Valve the right to resell or distribute all of the user's information (including data captured by the Steam client) in a variety of ways.

Here are some relevant sections of the Steam subscriber agreement (EMPHASIS ADDED):

A. License Terms.
Steam and your Subscription(s) require the AUTOMATIC DOWNLOAD AND INSTALLATION OF SOFTWARE AND OTHER CONTENT AND UPDATES onto your computer ("Steam Software"). You may not use Steam Software for any purpose other than the permitted access to Steam and your Subscriptions. You understand that for reasons that include, without limitation, system security, stability, and multiplayer interoperability, Steam may need to automatically update, pre-load, create new versions or otherwise enhance the Steam Software and accordingly, the system requirements to use the Steam Software may change over time. You understand that neither this Agreement nor the terms associated with a particular Subscription entitles you to future updates, new versions or other enhancements of the Steam Software associated with a particular Subscription although VALVE MAY CHOOSE TO PROVIDE SUCH UPDATES, ETC. IN ITS SOLE DISCRETION.

"User Generated Information" means any information made available to other users through your use of multi-user features of Steam or to Valve through your use of the Steam Software. User Generated Information may include, but is not limited to, chat, forum posts, screen names, game selections, player performances, usage data, suggestions about Valve products or services, and error notifications. Subject to the Valve privacy policy referenced in Section 1 above, as applicable, you expressly GRANT VALVE THE COMPLETE AND IRREVOCABLE RIGHT TO USE, REPRODUCE, MODIFY, CREATE DERIVATIVE WORKS FROM, DISTRIBUTE, TRANSMIT, BROADCAST, AND OTHERWISE COMMUNICATE, AND PUBLICLY DISPLAY AN PERFORM THE USER GENERATED INFORMATION and derivative works thereof in any form, anywhere, with or without attribution to you, and without any notice or compensation to you of any kind.

The reason why this story should be slashdotted is that the Steam client appears to have many of the characteristics of trojan/spyware, but because it is being bundled with games from big name companies like EA in such a way that installing it is a pre-requisite to using the game, a lot of people are unknowingly putting spyware onto their machines, and giving Valve the right to monitor all their online gaming activity as well as push down any code they want to the Steam client. This is, in my opinion, a bad thing. Think if Microsoft were to acquire Valve? Or what if a government agency tried to use the Steam client to eavesdrop on people's PCs? Or what if Valve's servers are compromised by hackers? People need to be warned about the Steam client.

Thanks, and I hope you will feature this prominently on the Slashdot.

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Is the Steam client a spyware/trojan?

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