Battlefield 2142 spyware situation clarified

By Justin Mann on October 18, 2006, 7:43 PM
In an update to yesterday's article regarding the shock many received when it was leaked that Battlefield 2142 may incorporate spyware into the game, we now have an image of the disclaimer inside the box. With the release of the game today, it helps to actually be able to see and read it. While full of doublespeak, it helps a lot to understand what is exactly EA wants to do. It does look at lot less worse than it seemed yesterday. You can read the disclaimer for yourself in this image. The original image was found at this digg thread. It still doesn't sound pretty, however. Luckily, it seems like the mechanism is more or less IP based and used only when the game is running, to deliver in-game ads. However, there is a huge gaping hole that leaves it open to abuse:

"When you use the Software while connected to the Internet, the Advertising Technology may record your Internet Protocol address and other anonymous information ("Advertising Data")."
What exactly does "advertising data" entail, and where does it stop? Cookies? Web sites visited? Hours of the day spent online? Your age? They don't give you much choice at the bottom. It isn't opt-out, it's their way or the highway. Should you choose not to have this wonderful in-game advertising, you are choosing not to play. Does this still sound too invasive? Luckily, some answers were provided from an official source. Justin Townsend from IGA, the company behind the advertising tool has come out to say that really it is quite harmless, and not as bad as everyone puts it:

Specifically, IGA's software uses the IP address for geotargeting of in-game ads (so that European ads are not shown to those in the U.S., for example). It also creates a unique user number that's generated locally, and is able to re-identify the gamer when he next appears online.
You can read the full article with Townsend here. However, there are still two things that don't sit quite right. One, why didn't EA, DICE or IGA make the incorporation of this technology clear months earlier during development, or even during beta? Second, are gamers still going to be OK with region-tailored advertising while in-game? For a free game I can imagine it being accepted. For a game with a substantial single-player and multi-player component, I can see it being accepted to pay for the cost of official online servers. The BF series, however, has no single player component worth mentioning, and the official servers are actually paid for by BF2 fans or non-EA companies, such as ATI and nVidia.

In the article with Townsend from IGA, he mentions that publishers will essentially "require" in-game ads to get funding for the games they are developing. To me, it sounds more like a fractured business model as opposed to a desperate need for funds. Will you be purchasing this game?

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