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July 2017
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How One Game Developer Views Steam's Refund Policy As A Boon In The Face Of Over $4 Million In Refunds

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It's been a little over a year since the Steam platform finally rolled out a true refund program for digital game purchases, with Microsoft quickly following suit. While gamers rejoiced at the news that every game purchase wasn't some form of a gamble, game developers reacted in a range generally between being nonplussed to vocally angry or fearful. The overall concern was that this move to shift the balance of Steam's supportive stance towards the consumer and away from the game developer would negatively impact the bottom line of developers now faced with a negative column in their sales metrics.Yet there are still very smart people in the gaming industry. One of those people appears to be Garry Newman, the developer for Rust, a survival game available on Steam's platform. Rust has been refunded a staggering 300,000-plus times, resulting in nearly four-and-a-half million dollars in refunds. But rather than freaking out and lashing out at the Steam refund policy, Newman instead decided to publish the refund statistics for everyone to see. And then he went on to explain why he thinks the refund policy for his game is actually a good thing.

Newman believes, however, that refunds provide Steam users who might normally keep their wallets under lock and key with some leeway. “I think in the long run, people knowing the refund system is there probably gained us more sales than it lost us,” he said.
That's the sound of a man confident in his product. So confident, in fact, that he trusts that taking away some of the fear and mental cost to a transaction for his game will ultimately result in more cashflow in by gamers who keep the game than cashflow out from gamers refunding it. We make this argument all the time about digital marketplaces: taking away barriers for potential customers to enjoy a product will grow the customer-base enough to render any negatives unimportant.There's also something to be said for the vision of being consumer friendly in this way. Anyone reading Newman's comments must certainly favor this kind of transparency and, again, the confidence in his product that he is demonstrating. More so, the flip side makes the inverse argument: game developers afraid of a refund policy are clearly afraid of it due to the anticipation that it will used. That would seem to indicate a wavering stance on how good the product is to begin with.If nothing else, this past year has shown us that digital goods can still come packaged with consumer friendly policies while keeping the industry successful. Hopefully we'll see more of this sort of thing.

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Former Head Of GCHQ Says Don't Backdoor End-To-End Encryption, Attack The End Points

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When he was head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan said some pretty clueless things about the Internet and encryption. For example, in 2014, he accused tech companies of 'facilitating murder', and joined in the general demonization of strong crypto. Last year, he called for technical experts to work more closely with governments to come up with some unspecified way around encryption. Nobody really knew what he meant when he said:

"I am not in favor of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory back doors. Not everything is a back door, still less a door which can be exploited outside a legal framework."
Now, speaking to the BBC, he has clarified those remarks, and revealed how he thinks governments should be dealing with the issue of end-to-end encryption. As he admits:
"You can't uninvent end-to-end encryption, which is the thing that has particularly annoyed people, and rightly, in recent months. You can't just do away it, you can't legislate it away. The best that you can do with end-to-end encryption is work with the companies in a cooperative way, to find ways around it frankly."
He emphasized that backdoors are not the answer:
"I absolutely don't advocate that. Building in backdoors is a threat to everybody, and it's not a good idea to weaken security for everybody in order to tackle a minority."
So what is the solution? This:
"It's cooperation to target the people who are using it. So obviously the way around encryption is to get to the end point -- a smartphone, or a laptop -- that somebody who is abusing encryption is using. That's the way to do it."
As Techdirt reported earlier this year, this is very much the approach advocated by top security experts Bruce Schneier and Orin Kerr. They published a paper describing ways to circumvent even the strongest encryption. It seems that Hannigan has got the message that methods other than crypto backdoors exist, some of which require cooperation from tech companies, which may or may not be forthcoming. It's a pity that he's no longer head of GCHQ -- he left for "personal reasons" at the beginning of this year. But maybe that has given him a new freedom to speak out against stupid approaches. We just need to hope the UK government still listens to him.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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The Power of Agency-Tech Company Relationships: A MediaMath Case Study

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Recently, MediaMath, partnered with digital agency PMG to help a global beauty brand address struggles they were experiencing when trying to connect with customers, in real-time. The brand wanted to deliver its ads to high-affinity audiences in ways that were optimized and personalized. By working together, PMG was able to construct audience profiles in a [...]

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