The latest patch for Civilization VI has stripped out the game’s Red Shell software, a controversial product that tracks the ads which the user has viewed outside of the game.
Red Shell has previously been branded as ‘spyware’ in some quarters, and it works by taking a fingerprint of the user’s PC when they view an advert, and when they subsequently install a game carrying the software, it similarly takes a fingerprint, trying to match those up.
In other words, it’s hoovering up this data to try and determine whether players have been persuaded to make their game purchase by viewing an advert, in order to determine a marketing campaign’s success (or lack of it).
The spotlight was shone on the system last month, and since then, a number of games carrying Red Shell have had it removed, including the Total War franchise, Conan Exiles, and The Elder Scrolls Online, among others. Civilization VI is the latest big-name title to ditch the software.
Part of the controversial nature, and accusations of the software being spyware, revolve around users being unaware of this monitoring going on, and failing to be given a choice as to whether it occurs.
For its part, the makers of Red Shell insist that a minimum amount of data is required to perform their ‘marketing attribution’ (tracking) – specifically the device’s “operating system, installed browsers, screen resolution, available fonts, IP address, timezone, and system language” – and that data is encrypted and stored with an in-game user ID (which is anonymized; i.e. it carries no personal or identifying details).
The company has a full FAQ explaining its activities to gamers, which you can view here (opens in new tab).
However, it’s not surprising that the software has provoked the reaction we’ve seen, and the fact that game publishers are swiftly dropping Red Shell tells its own story.
As Rock Paper Shotgun (opens in new tab), which spotted this development, points out, you can opt out of Red Shell tracking on the developer’s website here (opens in new tab).
Meanwhile, the more positive news for the latest Civilization VI patch is that it enables cross-platform multiplayer for PC and Mac.
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