Valve has revised its privacy policies, updating its Steam client to provide users with the ability to hide what information is accessible to others such as owned games and the playtime behind them. Unfortunately, this has caused some unrest among tracking sites such as Steam Spy, which relies on the accessibility of user data to conduct accurate readings.
Giving control of user data back to users themselves is an important step for a lot of companies in the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debacle, with Valve jokingly downplaying the move as a way to hide “the 4,000+ hours you've put into Ricochet” instead of having to nervously brush off the supposed embarrassment.
According to Steam Spy, this isn’t a particularly great move for the company as the tracking site is effectively useless without the information being available by default. It was quick to reiterate that giving the option to users in itself isn’t a bad thing, but the default for all users having been set to hidden unless manually changed within the settings leaves the tracking sites without a sizeable sample of users to work with
To reiterate – it's not because of the new privacy settings. It's because Steam just made everyone's gaming library hidden by default (this wasn't in their blog post).
— Steam Spy (@Steam_Spy) April 11, 2018
Unless most, if not all Steam users were to actively open those settings up, it’s looking grim for Steam Spy, which has proven to be a brilliant source of statistics in the past that have helped popularise games and support game developers as they grow and update their titles.
Other third-party tracking sites such as AStats are also affected, unable to reach core data needed to calculate statistics. This is presumably due to the change in default settings, however AStats has yet to publicly address the situation.
Valve isn’t stopping there, however, as it plans to overhaul its offline status to allow for an “invisible mode,” giving users a chance to appear offline while remaining in control of all Steam functions, including the friends list, messages and more.
KitGuru Says: It’s unfortunate to see Steam Spy and other third-party tracking sites suffer because of the latest changes, but I will always side with the motivation to protect and preserve user control over their own data. Opting in to share data is much better than sneakily implementing the option to opt out of it, but never really realise just how much of your data is being sucked up by both first and third-party companies. Do you use Steam Spy? What do you think of the privacy changes?