I'm doing an "Ethics for Computer Science" course, and for an assignment we're supposed to come up with an "aspect or example of computer technology that has affected society or had a cultural impact, providing an ethical analysis and an explanation of why this issue is unique to computing technology". We're then supposed to conduct an interview, and then later write an essay on the subject using the information we gained from the interview.
I've decided not to do a formal interview as such though. I figure it might be easier to get opinions from various people, and then fabricate an "interview" from that (because, I don't exactly know any experts on the subject, personally).
I figure this would be a good place to pose some questions, and get a discussion going. And FYI, my "interviewee" is anonymous, so none of you will be mentioned or anything like that.
For anyone who doesn't know, Punkbuster is an anti-cheating system for online games on the PC (AFAIK, Crysis uses it, as well as various games from the CoD series, etc). It operates essentially like an anti-virus, except for a few things:
The EULA asks you to agree that, (1) you are aware that Punkbuster is considered as invasive software, (2) that Punkbuster will scan (all of) your harddrive and memory, and will upload files/data to their servers for inspection it deems suspicious, (3) that Punkbuster allows server admins to request screenshots from your system, without your knowledge, and (4) that your ability to play in a cheat-free environment is more important than any security or privacy that may be impared by Punkbuster.
This scanning and uploading is also carried out by a background service, which runs even when the game in question is not. Scanning would keep it in the realm of anti-virus software, but IMO uploading data as well would, by definition, make it a type of spyware.
The questions i'm posing are:
Despite the need to prevent cheating in online games, is it ethical to include these sorts of clauses in an EULA that the user effectively *has* to accept if they want to play on any decent server (afaik, some games don't even give you an option to not install PB)?
Is it ethical to scan *all* of your hard disk, and upload any information it feels like?
Is it ethical to force a user to concede privacy for the operation of their software?
The uploading of data and screenshots seems to me to be a particularly...invasive...invasion of privacy.
It also doesn't help that, based on what I've heard from others, that PB tends to pick up a lot of false-positives and kick/ban legit players.
Anyway. Have at it. Discuss. Argue. I need ideas .