The PlayStation Network Terms of Service: Revisited!

Greetings Readers!

After the huge response I have received from my post yesterday about Sony’s updated Terms of Service/User Agreement for the PlayStation Network, I have decided that I should write a follow-up post addressing some of the points that have been brought up.  I was trying to get in contact with somebody at Sony who could respond, but like Gamespot, I have not had any luck.  Before I get into this post, I would like to thank everybody that shared the link for yesterday’s post as it is now the third most viewed post on the Global Geek News Blog behind the Twitter Etiquette and Twitter Etiquette 2 posts.  OK, here we go.

Probably the biggest comment I have received so far is in regards to the protection of children from online predators.  This is certainly a valid point, which lead to Sony adding the following statement to the new Terms of Service.

You may not provide anyone with your name or any other personally identifying information other than your own Online ID, or the name, password or personally identifying information of any other person or business through any means, including messaging, chat or any other form of PSN communication.

While I agree with the purpose behind this statement, I think it goes a bit too far.  I think giving this information should be up to the users and their own personal judgment or that of their guardians.  I have met countless people online, and if I was restricted by this rule, I would not have many of the great friends I have today.  I also play online with friends, and I don’t to risk banning because I refer to somebody by their actual name rather than their Online ID.  Protecting the children is a honorable goal, but restricting everybody to protect a few is going too far.

Another popular opinion that I have seen is that this Terms of Service is no worse than most of them that are out there.  When I am bored, I am known to read Terms of Service type documents, so I know this is not the case.  While I will agree that many Terms of Service are overly restrictive and often rarely enforced, to say this is no worse than others is just plain wrong.  When Google did something very similar when they launched Chrome, trying to say that everything created through their browser was essentially theirs, they were immediately called out on it and they backed off.  That is what needs to happen here.  It is time that Terms of Service are not so one sided, and many such documents are beginning to reflect that as technology becomes more open.  I know that my legal section for this site is nowhere near as ugly as this terms of service.  In the interest of fairness and to show that I am not out to destroy Sony, I will be reviewing the ToS of the other consoles and writing about them later this week.

Another hot button topic seems to be the giving of information to third parties.  From what I have read, many people seem to be against it, especially when they realize that it is personal information that is being given.  Personally, I generally don’t much care if companies gather anonymous usage statistics on things I do.  As long as no personally identifying information about me is not sent, especially in an insecure manner, I don’t mind contributing to make a product better by allowing companies to see how I am using a product for future improvements or what bugs I am running into that need fixed.  When my personal information is sent, especially to third parties who can also distribute it to whomever they choose, that is when I have a problem.  It is even worse when there is no way to opt out of such a policy.  With the way it stands now, if I don’t agree, I don’t get to use my PS3 or PSP, and that is that.  Giving personal information out in such a manner is a huge security and privacy problem.  The more people that have your information, the higher your chances of identity theft.  Also, such information transfer is illegal in some places.

The last major point that has been made that I want to talk about is that these are just meant to cover Sony’s butt if somebody decides they want to sue them.  While I will agree with that, I believe they went much farther than that, especially when they refuse to do anything about lost data purchased from the PlayStation Store, even when they are the one to have caused the problem.  As I stated before, protecting children and stupid people in general is certainly an admirable goal, but there are better ways to go about it than doing something like this.  Courts have thrown out Terms of Service in the past because they are overly restrictive and just plain bad that no reasonable person would accept them, something that could very easily happen in this case.  A balance must be struck between Sony protecting its hardware, network, and contracts and the consumer and allowing them to use their system in the way that they choose.

Don’t forget to check back later this week as I will talk bout the Terms of Service that come with the other consoles and the possibility of comment from Sony on this issue!  I am also likely to talk about this on the next Global Geek News Podcast, so keep an eye on that!  Like always, follow me on Twitter or Friendfeed if you want to be notified of when new posts go up.  Until next time, don’t forget to comment (And be a constructive commenter)!