Dispossessing users of their personal data and the issue of privacy in video gaming : the Steam platform, a case in point

Objectives: To analyse the response of the video gaming community to Steam’s privacy policy update and examine the users’ perception of the repercussions of this update on the platform’s financial and gaming ecosystem.

Methodology: A netnographic analysis was conducted of 1,039 user comments responding to Steam’s official announcement of the update. The comments were grouped by theme and contrasted according to the position taken by the users.

Results: The analysis showed that Steam users took one of two positions which, in turn, revealed two contrasting perceptions of the overall nature of the platform and of the consequences of the update. Either they were pragmatic, understanding the update in financial terms, or they were more concerned with the social guarantee the platform should offer. The pragmatists, who did not regard Steam as a social network, accepted that users’ personal data could be made available without consent to third party services like the tracker Steam Spy, while defenders of the social guarantee argued that the defence of user privacy should come before any kind of commercial gain and that users’ data ownership rights should be regarded as a fundamental right.