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Is Epic Games Store user data accessible by the Chinese government?

Fortnite
Fortnite (Image credit: Windows Central)

A thread on reddit rose to the front page recently, decrying Ubisoft for its always-online UPlay PC system, but also the new Epic Games Store.

Epic Games, known for the Unreal Engine and runaway shooter success story Fortnite, recently launched a digital store front to compete with Steam. Core gamers have been plenty sceptical since its launch, owing to continuing fragmentation of digital store fronts on PC, and Epic Games' willingness to pay to block games from appearing on other PC platforms.

The scepticism reached fever pitch in that reddit thread with almost 30,000 upvotes, citing Epic Games' Terms of Service, which seemed to state that any data you generate on the service can be used by Epic however they see fit. The poster extrapolated that it might include the sharing of information with Epic Games' investors, including Tencent.

Tencent

Tencent (Image credit: Tencent)

Tencent is a massive Chinese tech company with vast investments in Western gaming interests. The Chinese company has also been cited for its involvement in China's somewhat terrifying 1984-like social credit system, which gamifies Chinese citizens' behavior. It follows the general wave of concern that global Chinese tech companies may be used by the Chinese government to access the data of foreign citizens.

Epic Games' Tim Sweeney has offered a response on the same reddit thread (thanks, DualShockers), stating that Epic Games doesn't grant Tencent (or others) any access to its customer data.

Re Epic Games store: Epic does not share user data with Tencent or any other company. We don't share it, sell it, or broker access to it for advertising like so many other companies do. I'm the founder and controlling shareholder of Epic and would never allow this to happen.The language related to sharing data with the parent companies refers to Epic Games Inc. It's a US-based company. This language exists because when you buy an Epic game in certain territories (like Europe), the seller of record is our local (e.g. European) subsidiary company for tax purposes, but the data is ultimately stored by Epic Games Inc. Tencent is not a parent company of Epic. Tencent is an independent company that's a minority investor in Epic, alongside many others. However they do not have any sort of access to our customer data.The other language around data in the EULA generally exists to cover the cases where we use third party service providers as part of operating our online services. For example, our game servers and databases are hosted on Amazon Web Services. However these third parties do not have the right to use or access Epic customer data in any way except for providing that service.

Without having a majority controlling share, simply owning a stake in Epic Games wouldn't necessarily give them automatic access to customer's data. A security consultant we work with also couldn't find any evidence that the Epic Games Store is sending information to Chinese servers, at least not directly. Given the amount of youngsters that play Fortnite, you would have to hope that Epic Games takes its data security seriously.

With Epic Games reportedly banking $3 billion in profit driven largely by Fortnite, hopefully, Epic will be able to remain sufficient without giving up any more shares to companies with questionable interests. At least for now, there's no real reason to think Epic is doing anything untoward with user data.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

25 Comments
  • Anyone believing a corporation is nuts. Also, Sweeney has repeatedly lied about windows.
  • Not using it anyway... Plus I dont trust anything to do with Tencent or Huawei...
  • Reasons not to ever use the Epic Store or any software they make keep adding up. In today's international political climate, and with how things are in the power balance, it's not unreasonable to distrust those making deals with the Chinese.
  • The stupid, it burns.
  • China is a surveillance state that steals our intellectual property while limiting our access to their markets, these are just facts. The distrust is very reasonable.
  • And US is not?
    Hahahaha
  • So because the US does it too this makes it right for China?
    Also China is worse in this regard, but if you want to protect this behaviour than be my quest.
  • Hey, remember the trade war they launched against us? Oh wait.
  • Now try expressing your opinion without insulting me, you clearly think you're better than me but your words don't show it.
  • They have a very small stake in the business, that's like assuming if you bought a few hundred thousand dollars in McDonalds shares they'd suddenly start giving you customer information, it just doesn't work like that.
  • Those are some real Deep Thoughts there, fdruid. Hey, maybe you can do a guest column for Jason Ward!
  • The shaaade of it all 👀
  • Just my opinion, you're welcome as everyone is to express yours in a civilized way.
  • Are you also distrustful of the gig-economy apps that have minority stakes held by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia????? Like Uber/Lyft/etc.... ?
  • This is all too funny. Hahahaha. You all don't think Google, Apple and everyone else isn't doing underhanded things with your data???? People should have expected Steam to have competition going forward. The PC wars will be no different than the console wars. I'm gonna sit back, grab the popcorn and laugh my arse off. Valve should have got first party studios years ago. Unfortunately they didn't. And will suffer over the next 10 years. Simples.
  • Except it's not really creating competition. It's creating fragmentation as stores are tacking on their own little client at the same time.
  • fragmentation of stores vs competition... sounds about the same. Depending on who you are rooting and what's your angle.
  • In this case, the fragmentation is of game libraries and it's becoming similar to how you have to subscribe to multiple streaming services to access all the content you want. I'd have no issue if it was just storefronts. The issue is when they tack their own distribution platforms on.
  • I have reasons to not use the Epic store that go beyond their Chinese connection, or their aggressive strategy with exclusives, or even the fact that it's a separate store/ecosystem, yet another one. They don't sell games in my country's currency, so they cost three times more than the price in Steam. Until that changes, if it ever does, I have no reason to buy anything from them.
  • From the news, it seems, 10cent is just one of their investors right? Can Epic stop 10cent buying their stocks? Being a investor == have connection == able to access Epic's data, server, infra and all that?
  • Nah Steam is too popular and people already have big Steam libraries so many will stay on Steam. This isn't that bad actually, some extra competition and in case you really want a specific game just make an account for it (which is a lot better than buying a 2nd console).
  • Tim Sweeney lied about Microsoft trying to cut developers out of $$ and trying to create the Windows Store for just that purpose. It's good to see him and the CEO of Snapchat reaping what they sowed.
  • Is it too much to hope for that tech news sites won't continue to cite random users on Reddit as credible sources, and upvotes as "proof"? I guess to be fair this article does stop short of validating the same claims made in those threads, but if you're reporting on (for example) the text of a TOS shouldn't you at least have someone with a legal background confirm things rather than rely on the "extrapolations" of a random anonymous user? Claims about the Epic store are currently on every gaming site, all based on the same Reddit posts, many of which have had their claims discredited. It's the journalistic equivalent of writing a research paper based entirely on an unverified wikipedia article that appeared 5 minutes ago.
  • There's nothing in the article that vaguely validates the claims of that reddit thread. That information is there to illustrate the voracity of misinformation flying about. Perhaps read the full article before commenting.
  • I stated: "this article DOES STOP SHORT of validating the same claims made in those threads", you reply stating that "nothing in the article vaguely validates the claims of that reddit thread". Lol, did you seriously just tell me to read the article before commenting, when you hadn't even read my comment before replying?! Wow.