When I signed up to test out a new service called OnLive recently, I broke that last rule, and I think it's going to be a long long time before I stop kicking myself over that one.
OnLive, for those that have never heard of the service, is a new program that lets you play some pretty big games on your computer without ever having to download them. The idea works kind of like Netflix does. You sign up for their 'PlayPack' bundle, and for that one monthly fee, you can play as many games as you want the entire month. Just as with Netflix, since nothing is stored permanently on your machine, canceling your subscription cuts you off from all the games in the bundle. It seems like a fair trade off if you want to take a break and play a game or two, but don't want to spend $50 on Steam, only to find out that the game you just bought is, well, a steaming pile of crap. With OnLive, you can realize that the game you're playing isn't really that good, and just move on to the next one, and the next one, and so on, until you find a few that you enjoy. On top of all that, because of the way the technology works, you don't really need to have the newest computer in the world to play the latest games. If your internet connection is good enough, you can play a brand new first person shooter with all the bells and whistles on a 5 or 10 year old PC. It sounds great, right?
Well, I thought so too, so I signed up to give it a shot, and I'll admit, the service was pretty impressive. I was able to load up Borderlands without a problem, and the response time between moving my mouse and the screen moving along with it was pretty decent. Unfortunately, I've also played a few very similar games locally on my computer instead of streamed over the internet, and having that experience kind of blows OnLive out of the water, because I could definitely notice a difference between the two. The lag was by no means horrible, and if I'd never played a game locally from my computer I am dead certain that I'd never even notice it, but since I had, it slowly began to drive me nuts. After a few days of telling myself that I'd get used to it, I gave up, and decided to call it quits.
Canceling my subscription to their service was easy enough. I just logged onto their website, found the billing section, and clicked to cancel the PlayPack bundle. Everything was pretty smooth, and I didn't have to contact anyone to get that done. However, I noticed that they still had my credit card number on file, and it was bugging me. With all the recent Sony hacks, having a credit card number floating out there on someone else's web server wasn't something I was liking, and since I no longer wanted to keep my service with OnLive, I definitely wanted to get it off there so I didn't have to worry about it being grabbed if a hacker ever broke into their servers. So, I began the search for an option to delete my account completely from their records. No luck there. Well, if I couldn't delete my account, I thought maybe I could just zero out my credit card number. I backspaced the whole thing out and tried to save my updated account info. No luck. I tried typing in all zeros for the card number and expiration date. Nope, you can't do that. Finally, I tried typing in 1234 5678 9012 3456 for my card number to try to trick it. It told me I wasn't slipping that one past them.
It was time to bite the bullet and contact support. After a little digging through their site, I came up with contact information and submitted a ticket to request they delete my account. Here's what I said:
Can you please delete my account, or at least the stored credit card information in it? I have canceled my PlayPack subscription, and as a security minded person, I don't like having my credit card information stored anywhere it doesn't need to be.
A few hours later, I had an email back from them that I thought was going to be a confirmation that they'd either removed my card from their records, or that they had successfully deleted my account. Silly me. Here's what I got instead. The bold part is my emphasis, not theirs:
You recently requested that your OnLive account be closed.
We have marked your account for cancellation, and you will be contacted after it is completely closed. This may take some time, but in the interim, please be aware that your credit card will not be charged at any time without your express consent. Membership subscription to the OnLive Game Service is completely free of charge. We do not auto-charge or apply recurring billing of any kind.
Also, your account information will be removed from our database six (6) months after your initial cancellation request, as per our Terms of Service which can be reviewed at: (Section 13): http://www.onlive.com/legal/termsofservice
Please contact us if you have any other questions or concerns.
Customer Service Representative
See that? They want to hold on to my credit card for six months before they take it out of their system. No reasoning. No explanation for keeping it on file. It's just theirs to keep because I agreed to their terms of service by signing up. Okay, well then, let's take a look at these terms of service of theirs. I clicked through to take a glance, and what I saw was just about the longest bout of legalese I've seen since my dissolution. To top it off, he referred to the wrong section. What I was looking for was actually in section 14. Here we go:
Within six (6) months after closing your Account or after any payments due on the Account are paid, whichever is later, we will delete all Personal Information other than (a) login-related information, such as your Player Tag, password, and email address, and ( financial records as required for accounting, revenue-reporting and tax-reporting purposes. We will retain your Personal Information for up to six months or until fees due are paid after closing your Account to provide a means to restore the Account in the event of an erroneous closure, to mitigate potential Account misconduct and to facilitate collection of any payments due. We will retain transaction-related information as required by law, to meet the requirements of our corporate accounting practices or as required to fulfill our obligations to our content and service providers and licensors. Please note that even after you remove information from your Account or delete your Account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent such information has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed, or it was copied or stored by other users.
I'm sorry, but if they're saying they need to keep my entire credit card on file so that they can keep a record of my one time transaction with them to purchase a one month subscription to their service, that's a load of B.S. Transactions have tracking numbers. You can keep that on file and let your credit card processor worry about the whole credit card number. There's absolutely no reason that you should need to keep my credit card information on your web server where it can be stolen by script kiddies or even by employees that decide to take a USB key into work. As I was starting to see red, I hit them back with a response:
Your terms of service, on my rather large computer screen, are eleven (11) pages long. I cannot find a good reason why you would need to keep my credit card information on file, after I have cancelled my subscription with you, especially after I specifically requested that it be removed. While I understand that you will not charge me anything further, this does not prevent my credit card information from being leaked out if you happen to have a hacker break into your servers, or a rogue employee decides to steal a copy of your database.
Please explain to me in detail how it is that you feel justified in keeping my information on file, after my specific request to remove it from your database.
It took a while, but they got back with me:
No credit card information is stored locally at OnLive. All credit card information is handled through our accredited third party payment processor.
Your OnLive Game Service account has been Closed at your request according to the Terms of Service. When your account is closed, you:
- Cannot use the OnLive Game Service
- Cannot Sign In to view your account at http://www.onlive.com
You have 7 days to reactivate your account by contacting us at http://support.onlive.com. (after you Sign In, select the “Ask a Question” tab to send us a message)
At the end of 7 days, your account will be permanently closed, and you:
- Cannot reactivate or register a membership with this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lose any PlayPasses or saved game data associated with this account, as well as your Player Tag
If you did not initiate this account closure, please contact OnLive Customer Service immediately at http://support.onlive.com.
Customer Service Lead
This would be a great resolution to things if I believed a word of it. Unfortunately, I don't. The last time I logged into my account, I could still see the last 4 digits of my credit card number there, and I don't believe for a second that their database doesn't have the whole thing in it. Could I be wrong on that? Sure, but I'm betting that I'm not. To be fair, in all reality there's probably not that much to worry about here. If they do get broken into, I'm sure to hear about it with all the news feeds I subscribe to, but I'm not exactly the average user on these kinds of services. If it wasn't part of my job to keep up on what's going on in the technology world, I'd be completely oblivious to a break in until I started seeing weird charges on my credit card bill. Some companies really disgust me.
So, what's the moral of this story? Kids, don't use OnLive. Go get a Steam account; they take PayPal.