Once Human devs forced to respond to “boomer” concerns over data privacy and spyware

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Once Human launched last night. It was quickly hammered by negative reviews, mostly concerning server issues and bugs, though accusations of spyware and data privacy breaches were extremely topical. The game features a lengthy privacy policy, and part of the stipulation for collecting beta rewards involves downloading a separate game launcher that’s not available on Steam. Thanks to the strong accusations from players refusing to play the game, Starry Studios has released a statement clarifying the situation.

We wanted to take a few moments to discuss data privacy.

NetEase takes our users’ data privacy very seriously and adheres to the data privacy principles such as data minimization, purpose limitation, and transparency.

For example, we would only collect government-issued IDs for the following reasons: where the local laws require us to do so (such as for a specific promotion), when the identity of a user’s parent must be verified to obtain consent for their child (if required by applicable child protection laws), or when the user wishes to correct their age information (again, if such verification is required by law). In any case, the ID information is deleted immediately after we have fulfilled the purpose for collecting the ID information in the first place.

Similarly, we may ask our users for additional information such as social media account usernames, names, and address in user surveys that users voluntarily participate in. Users are free to provide as much or as little information in these user surveys, if they choose to respond to the survey at all.

In the spirit of transparency, we have indeed included the type of information that we may collect (which may not be the case if the users aren’t accessing the specific functionality), the purpose for which we collect the data, and how we process the data in our privacy policy. Our privacy policy also clearly states how you can exercise your rights to manage your personal information by contacting our in-game customer services. We have recently revised our privacy policy with the aim to improve clarity and transparency, which will be published soon.
We have heard your concerns and will continue to improve on how we describe our data privacy practices. If you have any specific questions or concerns after your review of our privacy policy, then please feel free to contact us.

Via Once Human’s official Discord.
Once Human, via StarryStudios.

In the few hours since the game launched and beyond the majority of negative reviews regarding server issues, it was also labelled as spyware. This was thanks to the invasive Terms of Service policy that suggested it was going to collect private information listed below:

(Personal Information Clause A) Name and Contact Details: Such as first and last name, title, prefix, email address, telephone number, (instant) messaging account, postal address, date of birth, age, gender, country/region, and government-issued ID, such as passport information, as required by applicable laws for age verification and correction of personal information.

Via Once Human Terms of Service.

StarStudios’ response seems to clarify these concerns, suggesting that items of information such as government-issued ID, passport information, and social media accounts were not in-fact part of the mandatory process, but are subject instead to local law and regulation.

StarryStudios is a developer based in China, working alongside NetEase. Chinese law requires ID verification for online games, so that if you are banned for cheating, you can’t just create a new account and do it over and over again. If you are not based in China, or South Korea which sports similar policies, you will not have to hand over any type of ID authentication to StarryStudios.

Steam reviews of the game jump head-first into criticising the policies, while others have said that those misunderstanding it are “boomers,” just looking for something easy to complain about.

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.