Red Shell analytics software causes privacy uproar, over a dozen video games developers vow to drop it.
Other developers and publishers are standing by it, however, saying the app is useful and harmless.
A piece of software called Red Shell that’s used by game developers for marketing analysis has caused an uproar among gamers who are concerned by its ability to generate detailed “fingerprints” of users—in many cases without them knowing about it.
“Imagine a game developer is running an ad on Facebook and working with a popular Twitch channel,” the Red Shell website explains. “The developer wants to know which of those ads is doing a better job of showcasing the game. Red Shell is the tool they use to measure the effectiveness of each of those activities so they can continue to invest in the ones that are working and cut resources from the ones that aren’t.”
In other words, if you click a Red Shell tracking link and then launch the related game, the developer is able to determine that the link led to a sale. The site states that Red Shell does not collect personal information about users, such as names, addresses, or emails. It doesn’t track users across games, and the data it collects is not used for targeted ads. “Red Shell tracks information about devices. We collect information including operating system, browser version number, IP address (anonymised through one-way hashing), screen resolution, in-game user id, and font profiles,” it says.
“We have no interest in tracking people, just computers for the purposes of attribution. All of the data we do collect is hashed for an additional layer of protection.”
Those reassurances don’t carry much weight in this Reddit thread, however, which begins by pointing out that users typically don’t have a say in whether or not Red Shell is installed in the first place. Games using the software “may offer an opt-out for any type of data/analytics services they use,” Red Shell says, but that places the responsibility for declining the software entirely on the user, and could be in violation of opt-in privacy laws—and that’s assuming the developer makes the option available at all.
Watch the related video that shows how the red shell software works:
The list of games found to be running Red Shell is surprisingly broad, and includes everything from indies like Holy Potatoes! We’re In Space? and My Time At Portia to high-profile hits including Civilization 6, Kerbal Space Program, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Vermintide 2. Some developers have promised to remove the software, but there’s also widespread insistence that there is nothing sinister or spyware-like about it.
Games which used Redshell which removed or pledged to remove it (as of June 18, 2018):
- Elder Scrolls Online (Pledged to remove it )
- Conan Exiles (Pledged to remove it )
- Ylands (Removed it )
- Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! (Removed it )
- All Total War games (Pledged to remove it )
- Warhammer: Vermintide II (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 )
- Omensight (Pledged to remove it )
- Ballistic Overkill (Pledged to remove it )
Games still using Redshell according to community reports (as of June 18, 2018):
- Civilization VI
- Kerbal Space Program
- Guardians of Ember
- The Onion Knights
- Realm Grinder
- Heroine Anthem Zero
- Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade
- Eternal Card Game
- Astro Boy: Edge of Time
- Cabals: Card Blitz
- CityBattle | Virtual Earth
- Doodle God
- Doodle God Blitz
- Dungeon Rushers
- My Free Farm 2
- SOS & SOS Classic
- Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
- War Robots
- Survived By
- Injustice 2
- League of Pirates
- Doodle God: Genesis Secrets
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