Discord has changed the way we play games, making it easy to interact with our fellow players, via voice, video, or text chat. It’s never been easier to discuss Call of Duty strategies or coordinate World of Warcraft raids – which may be why over 130 million people have joined the (Voice Over IP) VOIP service.
But are there any privacy issues lurking in the background that Discord users need to know about? In an age of Big Data, it would be a surprise if the owners of Discord failed to capitalize on such a huge community. And could there also be the risk of rivals listening into your Discord discussions?
This blog will lay out everything you need to know about Discord privacy, allowing users to link up with players without worrying about Discord privacy concerns.
Have there been any Discord privacy concerns for gamers to worry about?
Discord was founded in 2015, and since then several stories have emerged about privacy that users should be aware of. They won’t necessarily stop you from joining Discord servers for your favorite games, but they may lead you to take measures to keep your discussions more private.
In late 2017, as Discord’s user base topped 100 million, the gaming press was suddenly filled with talk about security issues relating to the platform.
1. Issues for ROBLOX fans to worry about
For instance, some security experts noted that the Discord API could be used to create apps which harvest user data of ROBLOX players (one of the most popular titles on Discord at the time). By inserting features called webhooks, hackers could “fish” out ROBLOX sign in codes, and use these codes to extract in-game currency.
This was specifically tied to ROBLOX, but it could be used for wider malware attacks across other Discord servers – raising the potential for all sorts of security disasters.
2. Confusion about permissions
Another controversy has related to the way Discord detects what games users have installed on their systems. The idea is that the Discord app can deliver tailored chat suggestions based around the games you play, instead of forcing users to search for their own discussions. In that sense, it’s hard to pick fault.
However, many users have found the way Discord investigates their hard disks highly invasive. Effectively, the app can see everything occurring on a user’s system while it is running – something that will terrify many privacy-conscious users.
This doesn’t necessarily evidence that Discord is an NSA-style surveillance machine. As we’ll see when we look at the Discord privacy settings, users grant permissions which can be easily revoked. It’s just a question of doing so.
3. Moves to unmask far-right Discord users
In 2018, law enforcement agents sought to use evidence from Discord chat rooms against one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” protests in Charlotteville, 2017 (which left a protester dead).
It turned out that neo-Nazis had been using Discord as an organizing hub for their activism (something which Discord claim to have known nothing about). A legal tug of war then ensued, to establish whether anonymous Discord users could be identified.
In August 2018, a judge ruled that the identification of users and their discussions was admissible, potentially compromising future private chats – regardless of whether far-right figures are involved.
4. Is Discord spyware? Some experts think so
Finally, Discord privacy concerns have been raised about the way the company collects and uses data. According to the Spyware Watchdog, the threat level regarding Discord is “extremely high” because everything users say or write passes through the company’s servers.
Moreover, Discord is known to collect data, and as a mainstream corporation, it’s likely this data will be monetized and sold on for maximum profit. It’s also very opaque about the source code used in Discord apps.
- Discord routinely collects the following information: “username, email address, and any messages, images, transient VOIP data (to enable communication delivery only) or other content you send via the chat feature.”
- Whenever you use Discord, your IP address and activity are logged from start to finish.
- Aggregated data is regularly sold on to third parties or used internally for “research” purposes.
- Discord collect information about your contacts if you link social media accounts.
How to manage your Discord privacy settings
The first step to ensuring Discord privacy is getting your personal settings right.
To do this, head to the Privacy Settings menu (you’ll find it by clicking the down arrow located next to the name of your current server).
This will let you manage things like friend requests and blocks. But what it won’t do is ensure minimal data collection, or keep your messages totally private. So in that sense, it’s a very poor excuse for a privacy settings option.
That’s why we recommend that Discord users download a high-quality Virtual Private Network (VPN) and use it whenever they are active on Discord chat rooms.
This will anonymize your identity while you’re logged on. It won’t stop Discord reading what you write or hearing what you say, but it will make it very hard to link anything to your real-world identity.
Additionally, VPNs can work around IP blocks which Discord use to ban people who breach its T&Cs. And they are ideal for getting around Discord blocks – so you can use the service at schools or libraries where it may otherwise be restricted.
Stay safe and enjoy the best gaming experience possible
Discord privacy certainly isn’t perfect – far from it, in fact. But it remains an essential service for millions of gamers. Gaming is better when it involves friend groups and socializing, and that’s what Discord enables.
But there’s no reason to risk your privacy more than you need to. So definitely source a good VPN and change your Discord privacy settings. That way, you can chat safely and still get together with your fellow players, despite very real Discord privacy concerns.