Razer Won't Let You Use the Mice/Keyboards You Bought Unless You Let It Spy on You

What basically amounts to DRM for hardware is causing an uproar

By Sebastian Pop on November 6th, 2012 12:35 GMT
This is a really bizarre turn of events. User channelx99 of the Overclock.net forums has discovered something very worrisome about Razer's high-end gaming mice and keyboards.

In his post, he reveals that he was unable to “activate” his mouse because he had failed to create an account on Razer's activation server. The server was down, probably because of Hurricane Sandy.

That is precisely what it sounds like: Razer's mice, like Naga, Deathadder and basically every other gaming device in the company's lineup (keyboards included), can't be used without first downloading the Synapse 2.0 software.

Granted, that may sound untrue. After all, in absence of the software, the mouse can still be used like a regular plug and play peripheral.

That doesn't really say much though. Buyers may as well just get a normal mouse for a bit of pocket change and be done with it.

Per his post, user channelx99 only discovered the problem when he was prompted to make an account immediately upon installing Synapse 2.0, and failed. When contacting customer support, he was informed the activation server was down. After some back and forth conversation, the operator hung up on him.

The account was a one-time thing. The mice and keyboards can supposedly be used just fine in offline mode after that. Unfortunately, there is no workaround for those who don't have an internet connection at home. Firewalls also have high chances of interfering.

And this is the second big problem with what is essentially a DRM policy: Synapse 2.0 is a company-approved piece of spyware, one that runs all the time after being installed.

The Terms of Use agreement is more than a bit worrisome:

“'User Generated Information' means any information made available to Razer through your use of the Software. Subject to the Privacy Policy mentioned above, you expressly grant Razer the complete and irrevocable right to use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise communicate, and publicly display and perform the User Generated Information and derivative works thereof in any form, anywhere, with or without attribution to you, and without any notice or compensation to you of any kind.

“By using Razer Synapse 2.0 (“Synapse”), the Subscriber agrees that Razer may collect aggregate information, individual information, and personally identifiable information. Razer may share aggregate information and individual information with other parties. Razer shall not share personally identifiable information with other parties, except as described in the policy below.”

Essentially, Razer forces buyers of its gaming products, who are really only interested in adjustable DPI settings and key macros and such, to create an account before being allowed to use those features. What they have paid for. All this without there being a mention of this on the product box. The Synapse 2.0 spyware is just a bizarre addition.

Update November 14, 2012: Razer contacted us to argue that Synapse 2.0 is not Spyware or DRM, even as it confirmed many of the findings of users. Go here to read our follow-up article.
Razer Naga Hex Wraith
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