Red Shell Spyware Controversy

Red Shell Spyware Controversy

Updated Jun 18, 2018 at 03:56PM EDT by Matt.

Added Jun 18, 2018 at 02:53PM EDT by Matt.

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Overview

Red Shell Spyware Controversy refers to the reaction from the gaming community regarding the discovery of a piece of spyware called Red Shell found on various video games on Steam. This software collects data without the users permission and shares it with third parties.

Background

Red Shell[1] is a marketing analytics tool that tracks user data to determine the effectiveness of advertising. in May 2018, online video game players noticed its sudden appearance in various video games. The program is primarily used on the online gaming platform Steam.



On May 8th, 2018, Funcom[2] message board user Bimdurian posted a thread called "Why are Conan Exiles sending data to Redshell?" They wrote, "Data are sent to api.redshell.io 44 All those are noting I want to be associated with, specially without my knowledge. I don’t want RedShell spyware on my computer. If I block all communications to RedShell on my computer the game crashes. Also worth knowing that some Firewalls and Spy/virus software automatically block RedShell!."

Over the next month, more users discovered the presence of Red Shell on their personal computers and requested that it be removed. Many referred to the program as "spyware."

Developments

Online Reaction

On June 1st, 2018, Redditor [3] TheFriendo5000 posted about the prevelance of Red Shell in the /r/elderscrollsonline subreddit. They rote, "In the current climate this is an extremely bold move. ZOS have installed Redshell https://redshell.io/home via the ESO client, software which basically tracks you online in order to effectively monetize you. They did this without explicit opt-in which right away is illegal in the EU due to GDPR." The post received more than 2,500 points (91% upvoted) and 830 comments.

A moderator on the Elder Scrolls Online former, ZOS_MattFiror later responded to complaints by calling the addition of Red Shell "erroneous." They wrote, "My apologies for the confusion over the integration of Red Shell into ESO. Here’s what happened: we have been experimenting with a better way to link which advertisements and web content new players see to the eventual account that is created in the game. The ONLY purpose this would be used for is to determine from which origin points our new players come from, so we can better plan where to place advertisements and other web content. Existing accounts will never encounter this, as they are already created."[4]

The following week, Redditor[5] posted about Red Shell in the /r/Steam subreddit. They wrote:

"Red shell is a Spyware that tracks data of your PC and shares it with 3rd parties. On their website they formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone i don't trust and whom i never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my pc against my will. This should have no place in a full price PC game, and in no games if it were up to me.

"I make this thread to raise awareness of these user unfriendly marketing practices and data mining software that are common on the mobile market, and which are flooding over to our PC Games market. As a person and a gamer i refuse to be data mined. My data is my own and you have no business making money of it.

"The announcement yesterday was only from 'Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!', but i would consider all their games as on risk to contain that spyware if they choose to include it again, with or without announcement. Also the Publisher of this one title is Daedalic Entertainment, while the others are self published. I would think it could be interesting to check if other Daedalic Entertainment Games have that spyware in it as well. I had no time to do that."

Additionally, the user shared a list of games that had removed Red Shell after the controversy:

  • Elder Scrolls Online (Pledged to remove it)
  • Conan Exiles (Pledged to remove it)
  • Ylands (Pledged to remove it)
  • Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! (Pledged to remove it)
  • All Total War games, (Pledged to remove it)
  • Warhammer: Vermintide II, (Pledged to remove it)
  • Warhammer: Vermintide I, (might get removed also?)
  • My Time At Portia, (Pledged to remove it)
  • Dead by Daylight, (Pledged to remove it)
  • Battlerite, (Pledged to remove it)
  • AER Memories of Old, (Pledged to remove it)
  • Magic the Gathering Arena (closed beta & not on Steam), (Pledged to remove it for now)
  • Secret World Legends (Pledged to remove remains of it)
  • Hunt: Showdown (Pledged to remove it)
  • Escapists 2 (Pledged to remove it)
  • Omensight (Pledged to remove it)

They also published a list of games that continued to use the application:

  • Civilization VI,
  • Kerbal Space Program,
  • Guardians of Ember,
  • The Onion Knights,
  • Realm Grinder,
  • Heroine Anthem Zero,
  • Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade,
  • Krosmaga
  • Eternal Card Game
  • Sniper Ghost Warrior 3
  • Astro Boy: Edge of Time
  • Ballistic Overkill
  • Cabals: Card Blitz
  • CityBattle | Virtual Earth
  • Desolate
  • Doodle God
  • Doodle God Blitz
  • Dungeon Rushers
  • Labyrinth
  • My Free Farm 2
  • NosTale
  • RockShot
  • Shadowverse
  • SOS & SOS Classic
  • SoulWorker
  • Stonies
  • Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
  • War Robots
  • Survived By
  • Injustice 2
  • The Wild Eight

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