Valve have been known to ask users to fill them in on what hardware they use via an abundance of optional surveys over the years, and now they want to know what software is running on your computer.
In an update to the Steam client users will be able to allow Valve to scan software on their PC's, by permission only of course. This will be in addition to the optional hardware scans they have had in place already. The new opt-in scan is only for PC right now (not on Mac yet), and will only scan your Programs and Features control panel to pull the data from.
In an official statement, Valve addressed the new survey plan:
"The new software component of our survey helps us understand what else our customers are using their PCs to do, and as a result, what features we can deliver or leverage to make Steam and our games better. PC users, developers and manufacturers will no doubt also find this information useful, so we plan to publish these results and trends over time. The first set of software survey results will be published among Steam stats at the end of the month."
Even though this sounds obtrusive, it seems like a harmless initiative in my opinion. Anyone who uses Steam or any of Valve's releases know they are a company who wants to make their users happy and can be trusted. The hardware scans are very routine and are only done to benefit the gamer's experience by ensuring that various hardware setups are compatible. In giving Valve permission to see what software you run on your PC will help them compile potential new features based on the trends of what people run on their computers. I'd assume they could also use this data solve different issues such as crashes and hiccups during your experiences.
So, as I said, pretty harmless. I mean, after all, its not like its Facebook asking!
What are your thoughts on sharing your hardware or software specifications with gaming companies?