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May 2019
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Gaming Platform War Update: Epic Games Store Suspends Accounts...For Buying Too Many Games

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As we've talked about before, it seems an era of gaming platform wars is upon us. While Valve's Steam platform mostly only had to contend with less-used storefronts like GOG and Origin, a recent front was opened up by the Epic Games Store, which has promised better cuts to publishers to get exclusive games and has attempted to wage a PR battle to make people mad at Steam. It's all quite involved, with opinions varying across the internet as to who the good and bad guys in this story are.Less complicated is the point of having an Epic Games Store at all. The idea would be -- wait for it -- to sell games. This is something that might not be fully understood by Epic itself, it seems, given that the platform has been busily suspending accounts for the crime of buying too many games.

There’s a big sale on right now at the Epic Games Store, a time when many users—conditioned by Steam’s frequently generous discounts on a huge range of titles—go nuts and buy a ton of stuff real quickly. On Valve’s store that’s enough to get you a pile of shame, but on Epic’s it’ll just get your account blocked from making further purchases.
Those Epic customers going through this right now are not taking it, ah, well.

Enough users were affected by this that Epic's PR team is aware of it. Apparently the culprit is an overly aggressive fraud-detection system, with Epic's store deciding that nobody would buy that many games that quickly unless they were doing it with stolen payment credentials. Frankly, given that the store is running Steam-style sales, it really should have known better. Steam is famous for these types of sales and its customers are known to gobble up tons of titles when they happen. Five games is, frankly, child's play.And Epic's response isn't great.
Nick Chester from Epic PR confirmed with Game Revolution that “This was a result of our aggressive fraud rules,” and that “If players run into this issue, they should contact player support so we can investigate.”
Well, yeah, or you could just fix your game store. After all, Steam's works.

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As San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Tech By Local Cops, New York City's Legislators Stall On Transparency Reforms

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Earlier this month, the San Francisco city council passed the first ban on facial recognition tech use by city agencies in the US. While other cities have scaled back government use of surveillance tech by introducing measures requiring public input periods and approval by city legislators, San Francisco is the only one to ban the tech outright. And it did so prior to any deployment by local agencies, managing to be one of the few governments to have ever have closed a barn door while horses were still in the barn.Elsewhere in the nation, not much is happening. In one of the most-surveilled cities in the United States -- New York City -- bills attempting to rein in the NYPD's enthusiasm for surveillance tech are going nowhere. This is from the New York Times Editorial Board:

New York City’s own bill to regulate the use of this technology languishes in committee.That legislation, the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act, was first introduced in 2017. It was introduced again last year with the backing of 17 out of 51 council members. Unlike the ordinances in San Francisco and Oakland, the New York City bill requires only that the police disclose basic information about the technology that is being deployed. It does not condition the use of new surveillance technology on the approval of the City Council.
This is a city that loves its cameras and add-ons. Not so much the public, perhaps, but they're not really part of the equation in the largest city in the US. Current mayor Bill de Blasio says public disclosure would just allow the bad guys to win. His predecessor often acted as an extension of the NYPD, opposing any form of transparency or accountability foisted on the department, even if said foisting comes from a federal judge.There are numerous reasons new surveillance tech should be rolled out carefully and with transparency. Facial recognition tech is unproven. It tends to rack up false positives at an alarming rate and there appears to be very little vetting done by government agencies before they start throwing money at tech companies offering this software.It's not impossible to hold law enforcement agencies more accountable to the public. You just have to want to do it. There's a roadmap in this post about San Francisco's new ban on facial recognition tech showing it can be done. But in New York City, the council is on the fence and the mayor's openly opposed to it. A city of this size that has been "served" by a self-serving police department for its entire history has an uphill battle ahead of it. But there's no reason legislators should back down. They're supposed to represent the residents of the city, not a single government agency that wields an outsized amount of power.

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