EA doesn’t exactly have what one would call a “positive reputation” with many gamers. Whether because of mudslinging with competition or unpopular decisions with regards to some of their games, a number of players don’t have a very good impression of the company.

The creation of their Origin service, in order to compete with Valve’s Steam, may have been a step in the right direction for some – but a very disturbing revelation in regards to their user agreement may only make the company’s reputation worse.

Obviously, whenever you install something on your computer, a user agreement will pop up presenting rights and legalities. If you’re anything like most gamers or computer users, you just skip past and continue the installation. However, you definitely won’t want to do that with Origin, as there’s actually a clause in the contract that allows EA to go through your computer for information – for the purposes of “improving their products and services.”

The full clause can be seen below:

“2. Consent to Collection and Use of Data.

You agree that EA may collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer (including the Internet Protocol Address), 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 third party service providers in a form that does not personally identify you. IF YOU DO NOT WANT EA TO COLLECT, USE, STORE, TRANSMIT OR DISPLAY THE DATA DESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION, PLEASE DO NOT INSTALL OR USE THE APPLICATION. This and all other data provided to EA and/or collected by EA in connection with your installation and use of this Application is collected, used, stored and transmitted in accordance with EA’s Privacy Policy located at www.ea.com. To the extent that anything in this section conflicts with the terms of EA’s Privacy Policy, the terms of the Privacy Policy shall control.”

Essentially, what this means is that if you agree to the terms of service when you install Origin, EA has free reign to go through your hardware and software for any information they want – specifically anything that reports how said hardware and software is used. The information draw isn’t just related to games – for example, EA could record how often you check your Facebook account, but they do have to abide by Privacy Laws so any private conversations with friends via e-mail or instant messaging shouldn’t seen by EA when the Origin application is on. But the worst part of this? For opening up your personal data, you get nothing – since the only way to avoid the agreement is to not install the service.

To be fair, Origin’s competition Steam – and many other applications – have a similar clause in their user agreement. However, theirs states that they’re searching for information “to improve Valve’s products and online sites, for internal marketing studies, or simply to collect demographic information about Valve’s users.” This is a much more narrow field of info, whereas Origin’s is a lot more broad – meaning there’s a lot of grey area that will leave some players on edge.

Hopefully EA will provide further clarification soon – but it’s safe to say that, if they don’t, this could do some damage to their Origin service (especially now that there’s a big summer sale going on). In the post-PSN hack world, there’s no question that many gamers are more aware of, and hopefully more careful with, their personal information. We’ll keep you updated when new information arises.

[Update: EA provided an update in response to the outcry to this news, which read as follows:

“EA knows that you care how information about you is collected, used and shared, and we appreciate your trust that we will do so carefully and sensibly. Information about our customers is an important part of our business, and EA would never sell your personally identifiable information to anyone, nor would it ever use spyware or install spyware on users’ machines. We and agents acting on our behalf do not share information that personally identifies you without your consent, except in rare instances where disclosure is required by law or to enforce EA’s legal rights.”]

Source: The Escapist