Steam Spy ceases operations after Valve changes privacy settings

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Steam Spy, the comprehensive website that tracks data pertaining to Valve’s all-conquering PC game-download system, has announced that it is no longer able to operate following the latest update to Steam’s settings, which were a response to privacy concerns.

Steam Spy, which collates data on Steam game ownership and play, released a statement on its Twitter feed saying: “Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default. Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default and won’t be able to operate anymore.” In response to a Twitter inquiry as to whether Steam Spy will keep its existing data up, Steam Spy creator Sergey Galyonkin replied: “Yes, pretty much. I’ll probably still keep the archive.”

Valve’s update to its settings, detailed in a blog post, make sense in the current prevailing climate, in which revelations about Facebook’s sale of user data have generated a widespread outcry about privacy on the web. Steam justified them by saying: “With more detailed descriptions of what profile information is included in each category, you will be able to manage how you are viewed by your friends, or the wider Steam Community. You can now select who can view your profile’s “game details”; which includes the list of games you have purchased or wishlisted, along with achievements and playtime. Additionally, regardless of which setting you choose for your profile’s game details, you now have the option to keep your total game playtime private.” 

The post adds: “Looking ahead a little, we are also working on a new “invisible” mode in addition to the already existing “online”, “away” and “offline” presence options. If you choose to set yourself to invisible, you’ll appear as offline, but you’ll still be able to view your friends list, send and receive messages. Sometimes you’re feeling social, and sometimes you’re not; this setting should help Steam users be social on their own terms. We hope to have this feature ready for beta release soon.” 

Twitter discussion of the move has included speculation about whether Valve was pushed into it by major publishers who are less than keen to have their sales figures and playtime statistics on show to the world. But it looks as though Steam Spy has become an unlucky recipient of collateral damage as the world has belatedly realised how the web giants’ apparently “free” services are in reality a means of mining users’ personal data.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.