Warning: *privacy not included with this product
If you're a serious PC gamer, you probably use Steam, the online game store, community, and place to go to find and play nearly 30,000 games. Owned by Valve, Steam launched their handheld console, Steam Deck, to let PC gamers play someone other than their PC. Turns out, people liked that idea. It was so hard to get a hold of one when it came out that it was referred to as a "Nintendo Switch for adults" by one publication. That's all fine and dandy, but how does Valve's Steam Deck do at privacy? Well, eh, they aren't the worst, we'll give them that.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Valve does say they can process anonymous data and they may share anonymous data, aggregated or not, with third parties. This is a fairly common practice and doesn’t worry us too much. However, it is always good to remind people that some anonymous data has been found to be relatively easy to re-identify. But, Valve does grant everyone -- regardless of whether or not you live under strong privacy laws -- the right to delete their data. So, that's good and a good thing to do from time to time.
Here’s the bad news about the Steam Deck though. We can’t confirm it meets our Minimum Security Standards because we can’t confirm it uses encryption or if Valve has a way to manage security vulnerabilities. We emailed Valve three times with our privacy and security questions again this year and, just like last year, haven’t heard back from them. (It’s super common for brands to ignore our messages to their privacy inbox, but still a bummer.) There is a lot written out there on the internet about how to set up encryption on the Linux-based SteamOS yourself, but you have to be pretty tech savvy to sort it out. And, we don’t think that users should have to go through that to protect their data. If you would like some easier tips to make your Steam Deck more private, we found this article pretty helpful.
What’s the worst that could happen with your Steam Deck playing all those games online? Well, Steam is an online gaming community and those have been known to be pretty toxic, especially to women, the LGBTQ+ community, and minority gamers. So, be careful what you share on those public chats and message boards. Because while Valve might indicate they are doing a decent job handling your personal information, we’re not so sure every person on Steam will do the same. You don’t need to get doxxed or swatted or whatever the latest form of gaming harassment is because you overshared (or heck, just even shared) while playing Call of Duty.
Tips to protect yourself
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data if possible.
- Review the tips in this help article.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Email address and country of residence; browser and device information, data collected through automated electronic interactions and application usage data.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In 2020, CheckPoint found four major vulnerabilities in the popular Valve games networking library. All vulnerabilities were acknowledged and received CVE’s. There were four major vulnerabilities in total.
In 2019, Valve investigated Epic’s use of Steam data after users raised privacy concerns on Reddit.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
An online connection is required to download games and play online multiplayer games. Once downloaded, some games can be played offline.
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Security researchers highlighted the lack of disk encryption at Steam Deck.
Steam Deck Privacy and SecuritySecureIdeas
A Complete Guide to Privacy on the Steam DeckMake Use Of
Pressure grows on Valve to unplug Steam gaming platform vulnerabilitiesPortSwigger
Standard Privacy Report for SteamCommon Sense
Game over? Vulnerabilities on Valve’s Steam put hundreds of thousands gamers at riskCheck Point
Valve to investigate Epic’s use of Steam data after users raise privacy concernsMCV/Develop
After 14 years, Steam finally gets some decent privacy settingsMashable
4 security bugs discovered in games on Valve’s Steam platformTechRepublic
Steam Pulls Game After Dev Goes On Transphobic Rant Against KeffalsKotaku
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