I played a lot of Valorant in the two weeks after its release and enjoyed myself immensely. Then I got yelled at by a teammate and never played the game again.
Now Riot say they’re going to start recording in-game voice comms so they can analyse it and “take action against players who use voice comms to harass others, use hate speech, or otherwise disrupt your experience.” They also acknowledge that this will pose a privacy concern for some, but that “if you prefer to not have your voice chat captured, you may turn off voice chat.”
In a post on the Riot blog, the company explains the changes to their privacy notice, which allow Riot to record and “potentially” evaluate voice data.
“When a player submits a report for disruptive or offensive behavior in voice comms, the relevant audio data will be stored in your account’s registered region and evaluated to see if our behavior agreement was violated. If a violation is detected, we’ll take action. After the data has been made available to the player in violation (and is no longer needed for reviews) the data will be deleted, similar to how we currently handle text-based chat reports. If no violation is detected, or if no report is filed in a timely manner, the data will be deleted.”
The privacy notice is a Riot-wide policy, which means that even if you don’t play Valorant, you’ll need to give Riot the same permissions in order to play their other games. “League, Wild Rift, and TFT currently have no plans to record player voice chat or expand the voice comms capabilities beyond party voice chat,” says the post, while Legends Of Runeterra has no plan to implement voice chat.
As mentioned above, the post does also acknowledge the issue of player privacy. “We know collecting voice data is a concern for many of you, but be assured that we would never ship anything if we weren’t comfortable having our own data treated the same way,” reads the post. “And if you prefer to not have your voice chat captured, you may turn off voice chat.”
It does further explain that Riot won’t be actively listening to voice comms, and will “only potentially listen to and review voice logs when disruptive voice behavior is reported.” The system also isn’t live yet, but the privacy notice is being changed ahead of beta testing to begin in North America.
I don’t trust any company when it comes to privacy or data, but I think I’m mostly fine with this. It’s not like I join a public server in a videogame like Valorant with an expectation of total privacy, and voice comms in a videogame are avoidable – unlike the real world of Alexas and Cortanas. Voice chat also absolutely needs to be moderated in these online spaces. My miserable experience and abandonment of Valorant seemed inevitable from the moment I started playing, and I say that as someone a lot less vulnerable to abuse than most others.
Unrelated to moderation of voice comms, the same post outlines changes to the company’s terms of service which includes a new refund policy and updates to the language around anti-cheat software in light of Riot’s use of a kernel driver in some games.
Meanwhile, Valorant just got a new sunny map, Breeze, and Riot need to do some work to moderate the text chat of their own staff given the way they recently shut down a fan-created classic server.