Steam Spy, one of the most-used analytics tools for Steam, created in 2015 by Sergey Galyonkin, will no longer be able to operate in part because of Steam’s new privacy settings.
Galyonkin tweeted about the conundrum he found himself in, addressing Steam’s new policies, which now make users’ game libraries private by default. Steam Spy operates via the ability to scan through millions of public game libraries and extrapolate information used to provide analysis reports on game sales and user data. Now that game libraries are private by default, Steam Spy won’t be able to operate.
“Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default,” Galyonkin said. “Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default and won’t be able to operate anymore. To reiterate — it’s not because of the new privacy settings. It’s because Steam just made everyone’s gaming library hidden by default (this wasn’t in their blog post).”
Steam Spy is used by developers and journalists as a way of tracking interest in a game, player demographics and even potential review bombings. Galyonkin told Polygon in 2015 that, at the time, he was sampling “roughly 150 people per minute,” and explained how the process works.
“But half of those profiles are empty,” Galyonkin said. “So, it’s around 100,000 valid profiles per day. I’ve optimized the algorithm and tomorrow should have data for 150,000 valid profiles, give or take. ... Data points are games per user, that’s why there are millions of them. I’m using rolling samples for three days to increase accuracy.”
Steam’s blog post further expands on the new privacy settings. Users will be able to make their total game play time completely private, as well as who can access their profile’s game details. Part of the blog post highlighting these features can be read below:
You can now select who can view your profile’s “game details”; which includes the list of games you have purchased or wishlisted, along with achievements and playtime. This setting also controls whether you’re seen as “in-game” and the title of the game you are playing.
Additionally, regardless of which setting you choose for your profile’s game details, you now have the option to keep your total game playtime private. You no longer need to nervously laugh it off as a bug when your friends notice the 4,000+ hours you’ve put into Ricochet.
Steam’s new privacy policies come on the tail end of Facebook’s controversial data privacy scandal, in which nearly 87 million accounts were compromised.
Galyonkin didn’t say whether Steam Spy will be going dark in the coming days or weeks.
Update: Galyonkin told Polygon via email that “it’s still possible to extrapolate information based on what is publicly available but the margin of error is going to be huge.” His full statement can be read below.
Right now, Steam Spy can’t operate using the previous approach.
It’s still possible to extrapolate information based on what is publicly available, but the margin of error is going to be huge. I haven’t decided if I want to change the algorithm, but if I do, I probably won’t expose the new version to the general public, as the new margin of error will be too big for an average user to comprehend.