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Steam revamps profile privacy settings, Steam Spy no longer able to operate

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While I was asleep Valve announced some new profile privacy settings which are good for users, but it seems Steam Spy is likely going to shut down as a result.

The new privacy options are actually quite good, as they were pretty limited before. Originally, if I wanted to keep my playtime private I had to essentially make my Steam profile completely private to everyone. That's all changed now, since there's a lot more settings you can tweak. Here's an example of how mine currently looks:

You can now have a public profile, but keep all details of games you own private for example. You could also make your game information public, but keep your playtime private. It's just so much better than what we had before, since privacy for users is important and putting them in control and having it as private should be the default. It should be up to users if they want it public, not public by default in my opinion.

Valve also said they're working on a new "Invisible" mode where you're shown as offline, but you will be able to actually see your friends list and message people. For me especially, that mode will be perfect and I'm very happy they're doing it. As someone with over 300 friends on my list due to running tournaments, co-op play sessions on Twitch and so on, it can end up quite overwhelming any time I decided to set myself as any form of online to message people.

This has had a side-effect that Valve has hidden the games you own by default to the public, which isn't noted in their announcement. This has caused the owner of the tracking website Steam Spy to say "Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default and won't be able to operate anymore.".

Quite sad, since Steam Spy offered some interesting statistics that Valve didn't give out, but likely many developers and publishers would have preferred it to stay hidden. I've seen the other side of the coin too, with plenty of developers on both sides filling up our Twitter feed today, as some developers found it more useful than what Valve give them—that tells me Valve really need to improve how they report information to developers directly. It is odd, as people from Valve have even said Steam Spy was useful, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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28 comments
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DrMcCoy 11 April 2018 at 1:45 pm UTC
That's still not enough control.

"This category includes the list of all games on your Steam account, games you’ve wishlisted, your achievements and your playtime. This setting also controls whether you’re seen as "in-game" and the title of the game you are playing"

I want to decide for every. single. item. who can see it.

Games I own? Friends
Wishlist? Everyone
Achievements? Friends
Playtime? Nobody
Ingame? Nobody

Hell, I even want to control access to it for certain API-users. Like, I want to allow GOG and Humble to see my game lists, without broadcasting it to the public. (GOG for GOG connect, and Humble so that is can display whether I have a game before I decide whether I want a Steam or Gift key.)

For the inventory, I want to decide by the type of item. Not just gift/non-gift, but in-game items, trading cards, coupons, gems.
Liam Dawe 11 April 2018 at 1:47 pm UTC
I do agree it could do with a little more, but it's a damn good step in the right direction. It also hopefully builds a foundation for them to add more.

GOG Connect shouldn't be affected, anything that has you logging into Steam to connect together would then have access to it. I've never had problems with it and my profile was 100% private previously and it worked fine.
DrMcCoy 11 April 2018 at 1:56 pm UTC
liamdaweI do agree it could do with a little more, but it's a damn good step in the right direction. It also hopefully builds a foundation for them to add more.

I don't have as much faith as you in Valve doing more than the absolutely minimum.

This change is likely fueled by the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), not because Valve listened to the people or whatever.

liamdaweGOG Connect shouldn't be affected, anything that has you logging into Steam to connect together would then have access to it. I've never had problems with it and my profile was 100% private previously and it worked fine.

Huh? I had my profile private in the past, and I made it public again specifically for GOG Connect. Because it didn't work.

I mean, they even say it: "NOTE: Make sure your Steam Privacy Settings & Profile Status are set to public".
Liam Dawe 11 April 2018 at 1:59 pm UTC
Strange, I don't remember having issues with it, but there's the possibility I'm remembering wrong it has been a while. At least now I shouldn't need to do anything
Lonsfor 11 April 2018 at 2:04 pm UTC
I think Steam Spy not being around is a good thing tbh, videogame discussion was getting cancerous because of it, a lot of "ded gem" and dick waving involved.
Kimyrielle 11 April 2018 at 2:37 pm UTC
The poor privacy controls were the reason why I didn't add friends to Steam at all. I don't want to broadcast all over the world which game I am playing when, and for how long. I wonder why people thought that's anyone's business?

I guess I can handle this a bit more relaxed now. Seems Cambridge Analytica made some people think after all, huh?
Lakorta 11 April 2018 at 2:39 pm UTC
QuoteValve also said they're working on a new "Invisible" mode where you're shown as offline, but you will be able to actually see your friends list and message people.
It's already possible to see your friend list when offline (by visiting the friends tab of your profile) and messaging too (by clicking "Send Message" on a friend's profile). Though the chat window doesn't update and you have to close and reopen it to get new messages.
Still nice that they're gonna add an invisible mode, that should make it easier to use
Liam Dawe 11 April 2018 at 2:44 pm UTC
Lakorta
QuoteValve also said they're working on a new "Invisible" mode where you're shown as offline, but you will be able to actually see your friends list and message people.
It's already possible to see your friend list when offline (by visiting the friends tab of your profile) and messaging too (by clicking "Send Message" on a friend's profile). Though the chat window doesn't update and you have to close and reopen it to get new messages.
Still nice that they're gonna add an invisible mode, that should make it easier to use
Yeah, I am aware. However, this mode makes it a ton easier to work with since it will properly integrate with the friends and chat system.
cprn 11 April 2018 at 2:59 pm UTC
liamdaweStrange, I don't remember having issues with it, but there's the possibility I'm remembering wrong it has been a while. At least now I shouldn't need to do anything

Steam OpenID doesn't give access to anything but Steam 64bit user ID (numeric). It authorizes the session, i.e. it says this connection to your website is a Steam user number 1234123412341234, that's it. All other things, like list of games a user owns, playtime, groups, etc., are obtained by asking a different API and passing the previously mentioned user ID but only public or authorized data are being returned in the process. Applications like the ones powering SteamSpy either use these other APIs or data-mine SteamCommunity WWW (probably asking Steam to return XML instead of HTML where possible).

By "authorized data" I mean data that are accessible to a given API key. API key authorization works exactly the same as friends permissions, e.g. using your own API key you can access:

  • your own (public and private) data,

  • public data of your friends,

  • data of your friends that are set to be accessible by friends only,

  • public data of strangers.


If you'd like to pass all your data to a trusted website, you'd have to provide it with your API key (and this website would have to use it, which is cumbersome when you have many users). Steam, however, only allows you to generate one full-access API key, therefore it would be nuts to give it away.

Above said, there's a parameter in OpenID request that should let the API user to specify more permissions but I never managed to use it.


Last edited by cprn at 11 April 2018 at 3:10 pm UTC
Comandante Ñoñardo 11 April 2018 at 3:20 pm UTC
This is bad... Specially when you are a new publisher and you need to know the total number of steam users...

Thanks to SteamSpy We know there are more or less 290 million steam users...

SteamSpy added transparency to the very limited info provided by Valve...

Indeed http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey doesn't work anymore..
When a company add a veil of darkness to the info that was public few days ago, is because something really bad must be going on.
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