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What yah looking at Big Brother?
Posted on Wednesday, December 18 2013 @ 15:35:18 Eastern

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

As the holiday season is upon us I am reminded of Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice, because he knows who is naughty and who is nice. Santa’s a damn spy and I don’t want a plump, old dude of no relation to my children checking on them throughout the year. I’ll buy their presents myself! So who has been actually watching us all year? Some would say the U.S. Government and others would agree, but what does that mean to me? Is the U.S. Government as innocuous as Santa Claus?
 
As the media continues to cover information released by Edward Snowden, one of my favorite pastimes, video games, has been brought into the fray. Specifically, it is now believed that the U.S. amongst other governments has been spying on online communities. As a multi-billion dollar industry with a multi-million participant user group, I could see this as a possibility. So what does that mean? Am I going to be playing Diablo 3 with Tingzor and bang, boom, pow…real-life Counter-Strike is going to unfold in my living room? Possibly, yet realistically it’s highly improbable. But the government has been snooping on me…they gotta stop this or else…?
 
It was interesting to see how up in arms people get about the “Government” collecting information on them when we volunteer information on a regular basis, the scope of which is relatively unknown due to the enigmatic user agreements we enter into every time we use a great deal of today’s technology. Just a few of the routine user agreements I have been graced with agreeing to are as follows:
  1. I-tune/Apple – for my I phone
  2. Google – for my android phone (would you like access to my location too?)
  3. PSN – to play online
  4. EA Origins, Rockstar, Ubisoft, insert publisher of game who requires you to accept their terms before playing their game.
  5. ISP – You get internet but don’t go trying to download stuff off Pirate Bay
  6. Samsung – Android phone but Samsung product, lets add a layer so everyone is covered I suppose
This would equate to just one day's worth of provisions my technological activities are supposedly governed by. Note: If you have ever taken the time to review these agreements side by side you will undoubtedly come across terms which conflict by their very nature. Digging deeper you could actually get into cross referencing the citations and case law referenced in some of them and realize the following: (1) You may not be abiding by all the terms found in the numerous user agreements you have entered into; (2) Not many people sit side by side all of their user agreements to see the inherent conflicts; and (3) If you did the diligence, who would change all of the agreements to conform to you as a specific user?
 
I use the user agreements as an example of how a legally binding document can be both superfluous and inherently non-sensical when placed into real-world perspective. So, when someone says, “Oh my God, the Government is spying on me!” I have to take it with a grain of salt and say, “Okay, so what have they been doing with it?” with a typical response of, “I don’t know, it just makes me uncomfortable to think someone is watching everything I do." If you were aware of being watched all of your life and nothing directly related to their snooping ever negatively impacted your life, would you still care?

I remember once telling my uncle that I don’t get it. Politicians simply repeat a particular message and people as a group start to believe and be swayed regardless of the accuracy of a statement. Furthermore, why do so many people vote along party lines without researching each candidate? He said something that made perfect sense… ”Nephew, not everyone has the time or acumen to research a particular candidate. Aside from that, there are a lot of people far more focused with attaining their next meal, having a roof over their heads, or just making ends meet, that the government’s activities are to some extent inconsequential to their immediate needs." If you were a poor person the day before the election you will more than likely be a poor person the day after the election. If the government has been collecting data on you this long and has not directly utilized it to reprimand you specifically, then how much impact does it really have now that you are aware?  
 
I get that the argument can be made, then, that the Government can do whatever it wants and we should just be okay with it… nah, not so much. I think simply from an individual perspective that monitoring has relatively little impact on me currently, so I am not up in arms. Of course the practice could be abused, innocent people can become victims, etc… but I grew up in a neighborhood where individuals have and continue to be profiled without ever having been justified by having a federal profile as a reference.
 
There are many battles to be fought with regard to maintaining civil rights and providing checks on the government but collecting information in an environment where information is ever prevalent and publicly available seems to make sense to me. In an ideal situation we could limit government information collection to only “criminals” while also granting them the ability to anticipate threats without a resource such as “information”. In the real world however, individuals both good and bad as well as public and private entities gather information in order to make informed decisions. The methodology for gathering information in a constantly changing environment is of a dynamic nature so I “get it”. I like my individual perception that at least some of the snooping leads to the prevention of some crimes. I am not saying it is the best way to protect a society, but “best” is relative to the perception at the time. I can rationalize why the action occurred, whether good or bad so in this specific case I just don’t have the desire to be up in arms.
 
In conclusion, I get more freaked out by what information private companies are gathering on me through the ever prevalent user agreements. It just seems a bit suspicious that I have to agree to the terms of my internet provider, then to Sony to use its network and to update its firmware, then to the publisher of a game, and possibly to a subsidiary who manage something like an EA Origin. When I had a Super Nintendo I don’t even think I knew what an agreement was. Furthermore, the idea that the end users of many of these systems are kids without a legal background seems a bit entertaining to have them waive certain rights with both parties consenting to understanding the agreement entered into…but I guess it falls on the parents to make sure that when the kid turns on the system or inserts a game that they do not agree to any terms or conditions until their folks have had ample time to review said agreement.
 
Now that I think about it, it would be really cool if a legal firm did a little expo on what have I signed up for: an examination of current user agreements in the video game industry.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on December 10, 2013, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan
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