Epic can’t seem to go more than five minutes without stumbling into another scandal. It’s now emerged that Epic Games is farming users’ Steam data while running the Epic Games Launcher.
Discovered by a user of Reddit, as these things always are, it's emerged the Epic Games Launcher scans for your Steam install during each start-up and then grabs a snapshot of user files in the Steam Cloud, including data on game saves, play history, Steam friends lists, name history, and groups you’re part of.
Steam Cloud data is stored locally in Steam>userdate>[account ID]. Epic feeds into this, pulls the data and then creates an encrypted copy which is placed into C:\ProgramData\Epic\SocialBackup\RANDOM HEX CODE_STEAM ACCOUNT ID.bak
The purpose of this appears to be to provide friend suggestions in the Epic Launcher, effectively linking the two systems up. This is done with the user’s express permission according to Epic. It’s tucked away into the lengthy agreement when installing the Epic Launcher and signing up for an account.
“We only import your Steam friends with your explicit permission,” said Epic in a statement. “The launcher makes an encrypted local copy of your localconfig.vdf Steam file. However information from this file is only sent to Epic if you choose to import your Steam friends, and then only hashed ids of your friends are sent and no other information from the file.
While this is no doubt tucked away in the small print, there’s no getting away from the spyware-like nature of this utility. It also sounds like a potential legal nightmare in the EU, where GDPR regulations. In accordance with GDPR, you can request Epic removes all of your personal data within 30 days, or they could face legal ramifications. If you’re worried about your data being farmed, this could be worth a shot.
The whole fiasco is further muddied by the involvement of Sergey Galyonkin. Galyonkin is Epic Games’ director of publishing strategy, and also the creator of Steam Spy, a utility for player data tracking of Steam users. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney says “Sergey runs SteamSpy on his own and Epic isn’t involved. Epic’s push to support Facebook and Steam friends import started when we realized how widely Fortnite was being played socially and that friends connections were the key.” Just to clarify this, Sweeney is saying Epic is not involved in Steam Spy when the literal head of the Epic Store also runs Steam Spy. Make of that what you will.