Slow as Sunday: Evony, Bruce, World of Warcraft, and spyware

by: Nathan -
World of Warcraft has set the industry standards for MMOs, not for being the first, rather they are the biggest, and arguably the best, at running/maintaining/building/rebuilding an online virtual world and even spying on their customers. A stink was raised by a hacker years ago on how the WoW servers run a program while WoW is running known as the “warden client”. Essentially the warden watches what programs are running at the same time as WoW in order to detect any programs with names that match a program that is considered in line with end user license agreement’s definition of an “unauthorized third party program”. Not such a big deal really. Keeping track of what programs are running at the same time as WoW is an effective way of keeping track of cheaters or hackers. Millions of players trust Blizzard with their personal data and I haven’t been given any reason to mistrust Blizzard to a point where I refuse to allow them access to my computer.

This practice of “spying” is not limited to WoW. As I said, they have become the standard to which all MMOs are judged and that includes how they go about detecting “unauthorized third party programs”. The free-to-play game Evony, yes the one that has lingerie models seemingly ripped from catalogs advertising all over other websites, has a cloud of controversy surrounding it. To make a long story short, a blogger by the name Bruce Everriss is being sued by Evony, LLC for posting defamatory and false statements online. So how are the two connected? In the Evony's terms of use agreement they include two agreements as follows:

You hereby acknowledge and agree that:
WHEN RUNNING, THE GAME MAY MONITOR YOUR COMPUTER'S RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY (RAM) AND/OR CPU PROCESSES FOR UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAMS RUNNING CONCURRENTLY WITH EVONY. AN "UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM" AS USED HEREIN SHALL BE DEFINED AS ANY THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE THAT, WHEN USED SIMULTANEOUSLY OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE GAME, WOULD CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF SECTIONS 1, 2 OR 9.

WHEN THE GAME IS RUNNING, REGAN MERCANTILE US, LLC MAY OBTAIN CERTAIN IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR COMPUTER AND ITS OPERATING SYSTEM, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION YOUR HARD DRIVES, CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT, IP ADDRESS(ES) AND OPERATING SYSTEM(S), FOR PURPOSES OF IMPROVING THE GAME AND/OR THE SERVICE, AND TO POLICE AND ENFORCE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT AND THE EULA.

Before we go any further I would like to point out that the suit against Mr. Everiss is still pending and the “truthiness” (to borrow Stephen Colbert’s word) of his claims about the alleged goings on in real life and the game world of Evony have not being revealed by the courts, yet. Mr. Everiss, as far as I know, does not site the monitoring of third party software as a reason not to play Evony. I refuse to play Evony, and have Evony played on my computer, because there might be some truth in Mr. Everiss’ claims and I do not want any software, browser based or no, running on my computer while the integrity of the company who runs it, and has such access to information on my computer, is in question. The language of Evony's terms of use agreement are similar to World of Warcraft's in regards to monitoring what programs are running while the game is, leading me to believe that Evony has the same or similar access to my computer as the WoW warden.

Make sure you skim through the end user license agreement and any other legal documentation pertaining to a piece of software before you commit to an installation. Strange and dark secrets can be found hidden behind legal jargon and in the 1s and 0s of your favorite game. Take comfort in the knowledge that most companies don’t wish or have the good sense not to invade your privacy more than they have to and that there are individuals like Bruce Everiss who are plugged into the video game industry and are willing to call companies out and make the public aware of any risky practices, rumored or true. Awareness and alertness is one of the best tools in fighting against fraud and other criminal activity and we should all be a little more aware of what goes down in our digital neighborhood.
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