Bloggers Accuse IGA Of Putting 'Spyware' In Game

A post this week on a gaming message board sparked a public relations backlash against in-game ad firm IGA, with gamers alleging that the company uses "spyware" that collects personal data on players to better target dynamic in-game ads.

The accusations were triggered by a podcast last week by the magazine Computer Gaming World, which reported that the new Electronic Arts game "Battlefield 2142" included a printed insert notifying players that IGA collects IP addresses and other information to serve in-game ads.

IGA's CEO Justin Townsend said the insert didn't reflect any change in the company's procedures, adding that IGA has always collected players' IP addresses in order to serve the correct version of ads, and in-game data to track ad impressions. But the release of "Battlefield 2142" appears to mark the first time this information was disclosed in print, as opposed to the end-user license agreement.

Monday, a user who heard the podcast made a post to the independent video game forum, ShackNews, complaining about "spyware" in "Battlefield 2142." This user claimed that IGA was also tracking Web-surfing habits--a claim that Townsend denies. "That's a complete misrepresentation," he said, adding that IGA was not interested in learning which sites gamers visited.



Still, that allegation was picked up and repeated as fact on other blogs and social media sites, including Slashdot, Digg and Kotaku, Gawker Media's gaming blog. Nielsen/BuzzMetric's BlogPulse service reported that as of Tuesday afternoon, 52 bloggers had written about Battlefield 2142 and spyware. By Tuesday, users on the social media sites railed against IGA and Electronic Arts, with hundreds of gamers stating that they would cancel their orders of the game, and recommend their friends not play.

Townsend described the disgruntled gamers as a "very, very small subset," and said that IGA doesn't intend to combat the negative PR. "Right now we don't have a specific strategy for communicating to the hard-core minority," he said.

But word-of-mouth expert Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer with Nielsen/BuzzMetrics, said that "defensive branding" might be called for in this situation.

"Gaming is a category where there's an unusual level of intensity among hard-core gamers," he said, adding that he typically advises gaming companies to exploit their official sites and forums to address these issues.

The game's development studio, Dice, appears to be taking a more proactive stance than IGA. Dice's community manager, Colin Clarke, posted on the "TotalBF2142" forums. "Data will only be gathered from in game. Web browsing and other profiling data is not being gathered," he wrote in a post that was noted in the Slashdot thread discussing the issue.

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