The end-user licence agreement (EULA) in Electronic Arts' new distribution platform Origin collects and transmits extensive data about your computer and your use of it.
A member of The Escapist's forums first raised concern over the terms, which have since been posted in full by Rock Paper Shotgun. One clause, headed "Consent to collection and use of data," stipulates that EA will gather huge amounts of information about the software installed on users' PCs and how they are used, and either use the data for its own marketing or pass it to thirdparties.
It reads: "You agree that EA may collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer, operating system, application usage (including but not limited to successful installation and/or removal), software, software usage and peripheral hardware, that may be gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, dynamically served content, product support and other services to you, including online services.
"EA may also use this information combined with personal information for marketing purposes and to improve our products and services. We may also share that data with our thirdparty service providers in a form that does not personally identify you."
To put this in immediate context, Origin's principal rival Steam contains a similar clause, but one which only entitles Valve to collect data on applications directly related to Steam. Another clause looks further than that – as evidenced by this TorrentFreak article on the software Steam users have installed on their machines – but users can opt out from it. EA's advice to those who do not want to agree to its terms is simple.
"If you do not want EA to collect, use, store, transmit or display the data described in this section," it reads, "please do not install or use the application."
Which is all well and good for those of us reading it now, but buyers of the likes of Battlefield 3 – the PC version of which won't be available through Steam, and will require that Origin be installed before it can be played – will have little choice in the matter.
After pulling its games from Steam, making The Old Republic Origin-exclusive and now this, it appears consumer choice is the very last thing on EA's agenda as it seeks establish Origin as a driving force in its attempt to make its digital business worth a billion dollars a year. With this, and the ongoing war of words with Activision in the run-up to the releases of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, EA has come out fighting in 2011. But will it work? And how has your perception of the publisher changed as a result, if at all? Let us know in the comments below.