Redshell - your games are spying on you

This is rather disturbing:

The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games.
Games rally against RedShell usage

The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers.

Game makers are supposed to embed this SDK within their games and run social marketing programs with specific affiliate IDs. If a new user buys and installs a game via one of these campaigns, the RedShell SDK embedded in the game pings back the publishers about the source of the new install.

But in several recent online discussions, users are complaining that besides logging the source of a new game install, the app also creates fingerprints for each gamer, with information about their online personas and gaming rigs.

Furthermore, many game studios have not told users that this SDK is now part of their games, or if they did, they made it an opt-out package instead of opt-in, as most privacy laws across the globe dictate.

blocking the software may/will? cause games to crash per steam discussion:

https://steamcommunity.com/app/440900/discussions/0/1694920442965006550/

[05.08 11:25:11] ConanSandbox.exe *64 - api.redshell.io:443 open
[05.08 11:25:16] ConanSandbox.exe *64 - dl.conanexiles.com:80 open
[05.08 11:25:22] ConanSandbox.exe - dl.conanexiles.com:80 close, 158 bytes sent, 1700 bytes (1.66 KB) received, lifetime 00:05

Some background connections for Conan Exiles which are activated every session
dl.conanexiles is for patchnotes…other stuff is not so nice.

Blocked Redshell spyware leads game to instant crash during the Unreal engine advertising video.
Redshell is an “service” for Marketing attribution & Steam tracking for PC games
Wasn’t active before release.

Everyone can test it. Add “0.0.0.0 api.redshell.io” to hosts and start the game.

Pretty weak tea for such alarmist language. Not that these marketing efforts have earned a lot of trust, but it seems to mostly be tracking where you clicked on online game X and whether you ended up playing it.

The fact that this was added to games after the fact, not part of their initial release; was added without user consent or knowledge, despite international laws dictating otherwise (we just got done with all those GDPR notices, so it’s not like anyone has an excuse here); is tracking and possibly phoning home with gathered user info, again without user permission or knowledge; and prevents you from playing affected games if you block the service from phoning home should make it very clear why this is a big deal.

I am clearly misunderstanding something, but how would that be useful for the executable inside a steam game? In mobile it makes sense because of in game ads, but in a premium title which is on steam I dont understand how or why they would want to be tracking your purchases and activity? After all Steam already allows you to track the ad that led to the install on Steam.

Knowing how many people play your game, for how much time, what are their hardware, seems useful info for a game developer.

If it’s only that, then I wouldn’t have a problem. It’s another thing if it starts scanning your hard drives in search of .exes to know what other games have installed and things like that.

There was a furor about this in ESO a couple weeks ago. Zenimax quickly removed RedShell, saying they were just testing it and never turned it on, or something along those lines.

All I know is what they claim to be doing, which caused a minor kerfuffle a few days ago in the MTG Arena community forums. I read the FAQ, and it seemed pretty small potatoes, but as I said, online marketers haven’t earned a lot of goodwill lately.

For the record, they claim to be GDPR compliant. Presumably someone in Europe will be checking on that, given the current mania.

Gotcha, thanks!

I bet this is all over the various Facebook gaming groups. :)

They’ve been complaining about this various gaming subreddits - Total War, Vermintide, etc etc. My impression is it’s weaksauce.