Tag Archives: ftc

ESA Says Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo Will Start Disclosing Loot Box Odds

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will be required to implement new policies requiring the disclosure of all loot box odds for games on their platforms.

“I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform,” Michael Warnecke, ESA’s chief counsel for tech policy, said earlier today at a workshop on loot boxes held by the Federal Trade Commission.

“Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.”

When reached for comment, the ESA directed Kotaku to a blog post on the organization’s website, in which the organization says the console makers are planning to implement this new policy sometime in 2020. It also states that many of the industry’s major publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros., have agreed to implement a similar disclosure policy “no later than the end of 2020.”

When asked about the coming changes, a Sony spokesperson gave Kotaku the following statement:

“Sony Interactive Entertainment aims to ensure PlayStation users have access to information and tools, such as parental wallet controls, that will help them make informed decisions about in-game purchasing. We support industry efforts to disclose the probability of obtaining randomized virtual items, known as loot boxes, and are committed to providing consumers with this information for all games we produce and publish.”

Microsoft and Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics at launched made marked a turning point in the conversation around in-game purchases.
GIF: EA (Star Wars: Battlefront II)

The announcement came after Warnecke listed the other ways the video game industry has already attempted to self-regulate in the past with regard to loot boxes. It’s a topic that has come under increasing government scrutiny after it made headlines in late 2017 following the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II. While games currently include labels indicating whether they contain microtransaction purchases, and video game consoles also have parental controls that can be implemented to limit how much money children spend in-game, the industry is clearly feeling pressure to go further.

Warnecke explained that these new policies are meant to provide “a comprehensive approach to ensuring consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to paid loot boxes.”

Another potential change could come from legislation from Congress, like that which was previously proposed by Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. In May, Hawley introduced a bill in the Senate that would try to ban minors from obtaining games containing microtransactions and loot boxes.

While requiring games sold on their platforms disclose loot box odds would be new for the major console gaming platforms, it’s a policy already being implemented on mobile. Apple announced that requirement for games on iOS in 2017, while Google made similar changes only this past May.

Source: Kotaku.com

How the Facebook-FTC Agreement Will Affect You and Your Data

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) have been taking Facebook to task regarding its recent privacy blunders, including the company’s failure to comply with a 2012 FTC ruling over how Facebook handles its users’ data.

While the DOJ lawsuit is still being litigated, Facebook recently agreed to an FTC order that requires the company to pay $5 billion in fines and submit to a 20-year oversight program—including annual reviews of its privacy and data collection practices.

The finer points of the FTC’s ruling mostly affect Facebook’s business structure and won’t have an immediate impact on the user experience (if any at all). However, there are several changes to how Facebook collects and disseminates data that will affect users—some of which build upon existing changes Facebook recently made, likely in anticipation of what was coming down the pike.

Here’s a quick rundown of the privacy changes that you should know about, and how they affect you and your Facebook data.

New rules for sharing data with third-party apps and advertisers

The FTC ruling sets stricter standards for how Facebook deals with third-party apps and advertisers. Facebook is now required to remove third-party entities that don’t comply with Facebook’s policies or cannot reasonably justify their requests for specific data from Facebook’s users.

This means that these apps and advertisers no longer have carte-blanche access to user data and must explain exactly how and why that data will be used, but the exact standards for “justifying” requests are not defined. That lack of definition could lead to a lot of grey areas regarding these rules, but Facebook users have several tools for seeing how their data is brokered, and controlling access to it. Most importantly, this ruling doesn’t place limits on how facebook can learn more about you; rather, it’s attempting to curb what Facebook sells to advertisers.

Better transparency for facial-recognition technology

Facebook now has to clearly alert users that it uses facial-recognition technology, be more forthcoming about how and why it’s used, and alert users if it updates its technology or functionality beyond what users were originally asked to agree to. The company also has to get express consent from users in order to opt them into facial recognition features in the first place—something it notoriously overlooked in the past.

We’ll likely see a better explanation of the technology and further refined opt-in/out user settings as a result of this ruling, but it’s important to point out that it doesn’t change current user settings—though we have a guide for reviewing and changing Facebook facial recognition settings.

New password storage requirements

Paradoxically, it was both shocking and unsurprising when reports exposed how Facebook’s poor password data protection. Thankfully, as per the FTC ruling, all password data must now be fully encrypted and the company is now required to regularly scan for plain text storage on its servers. Similarly, Facebook won’t be able to ask new users your email passwords to their other services, either.

Restricted collection of phone numbers

In the past, Facebook had ways of finding (and then distributing) your phone number, even if you didn’t supply such data in your profile. With this new FTC ruling, Facebook is now barred from “using” phone numbers it obtained through security features, such as two-step verification.

What’s unclear, however, is what exactly “using” means. Collecting them? Selling them? It’s hard to say, and that’s frustrating since Facebook has a habit of “accidentally” collecting phone numbers. Thankfully, there are ways to delete such information from your profile and keep Facebook from snooping around your device’s contact information.

Illustration of Facebook’s new privacy structure
Image: FTC

We won’t know the full effect users will see from these changes until they’re implemented and acted upon, but it’s hard to put much faith in these changes as long as the platform subsists on collecting and selling your data. We’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out (including the still-in-progress DOJ lawsuit), but in the meantime, it may be wise to consider whether Facebook is worth keeping—or if you should delete it for good.

Source: Kotaku.com