Never again: “Shut up, noob!”?

Published on 2 March 2020 categories 

Last month, game-developer Valve reported that Counterstrike: Global Offensive players will now be automatically blocked if Valve receives too many complaints about them. Can they do that? You paid for the game, didn’t you?

Automatic decision making

Valve works with an automatic system that blocks players based on the number of complaints. Ergo: automatic decision making based on personal data. The AVG regulates under which conditions this is permitted. My colleague Lora Mourcous wrote a clear blog about this earlier.

It seems to me that this system indeed qualifies as automatic decision-making within the meaning of the AVG. After all, it is a system that makes a decision based on a profile about a natural person completely without human intervention.

Prohibition of automatic decision-making

The AVG prohibits automatic decision-making when the automatic decision has legal effect or significantly affects the person concerned in any other way. In this case, blocking means that your contractual right to access the online version of the game is no longer valid. This seems to me to be a legal consequence, and so the prohibition applies.

The prohibition can be circumvented if one of the following conditions is met:

  • It is permitted by law;
  • It is necessary to ensure the safety and reliability of a service provided by the responsible person;
  • It is necessary for the conclusion or execution of a contract between the data subject and the controller; or
  • The person concerned has given his explicit consent.

It has not been disclosed which of these exceptions Valve invokes. I don’t think the safety and reliability of the game in itself is at stake. At most, the gaming experience is a bit less pleasant. Valve can therefore not rely on the second exception. Nor is it allowed by law or necessary for the execution of the agreement between the person involved and the person in charge. This leaves the explicit consent of the gamer. That will not be an easy one.

Online terms and conditions

If you want to play CS:GO online, the terms and conditions of Steam apply. These conditions include the following text:

Valve may terminate your Account or a particular Subscription for any conduct or activity that is illegal, constitutes a Cheat, or otherwise negatively affects the enjoyment of Steam by other Subscribers. You acknowledge that Valve is not required to provide you notice before terminating your Subscription(s) and/or Account.

This provision allows Valve to terminate an account if a user violates the Steam Online Conduct Rules. However, there is nothing stated about consent for automatic decision making. And neither does Steam’s privacy policy provide any information on automatic decision making. Therefore, it seems that this form of automatic decision making is not allowed. The only way to make this possible, I think, is when the decision to suspend or ban someone is first subject to human review. Then there is no longer automatic decision-making within the meaning of the AVG. This human intervention must actually be meaningful. There can be no rubber stamping, because then this would still qualify as automatic decision-making.



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