At the beginning of June, we covered The Elder Scrolls Online’s implementation of spyware program Red Shell, which is designed to track specific information about players and PCs logging into the client, like where on the globe they live. At the time, as fury blazed across Reddit, ZeniMax’s Matt Firor apologized for Red Shell, saying the company was “experimenting” with it and didn’t intend to patch it into the live build, and therefore it would be patched back out.
As it turns out, there are plenty of other games with Red Shell, or parts of Red Shell lingering. Redditor Alexspeed75 has been keeping track of games accused of running the spyware. Most notable on the list for our readers is Funcom; while the studio removed the Red Shell code from Conan Exiles in May following player complaints, players still found parts of it in The Secret World as of last week. That, Funcom has told Redditors, was an error, as it patched out the code last year.
“SWL has used Red Shell for tracking a login event last year. I confirmed with the team that the change to disable Red Shell was committed on 10/26, and it was patched either on the 31st of October or, at the latest, on November 13th. However, it seems we forgot to remove the .dlls which are still lingering. We are looking into removing those old remains with a patch asap to give you peace of mind.”
ZeniMax and Funcom aren’t the only large MMO companies to come under fire for spyware this spring; Guild Wars 2 actually kicked off the first panic of the year back in April, when players discovered ArenaNet had been using a different type of spyware (not Red Shell) to parse player PC data and pre-emptively ban people with certain ambiguous programs installed on their computers. ArenaNet did not apologize; it did deny collecting excessive data, and it did remove the spyware at the end of March.