NZXT is one of the leading hardware vendors in the gaming PC world. The company offers a line of cases, cooling hardware, and PC customization products that have been incredibly popular with PC gamers over the last decade. In addition to their hardware offerings, NZXT released a performance monitoring application, named CAM, that allows users to monitor temperatures and other information relevant to their PCs. CAM is a free download for anyone running a PC.
CAM is required to configure and customize the hardware for PC gamers using NZXT’s Kraken-series CPU coolers or the Hue+ lighting controllers. The end user is required to create an account and log into the software to configure the Kraken or Hue+. While CAM offers a guest login option on the initial startup, the functionality expected from customers is locked behind the online account system. Once it is running on a PC, CAM collects and uploads data constantly.
The full extent of what is being collected is only known by NZXT. This weekend, a post on Reddit from user u/brodie7838 explained concerns over exactly what NZXT was collecting from users' PCs and the seemingly excessive amount of bandwidth that the CAM app was using to report this data. The post referenced year-old concerns from reddit user u/qubasiasty, who posted a screenshot of CAM’s monthly bandwidth usage from the Windows 10 data usage panel. For that month, CAM had used 22GB of bandwidth. A reply from a NZXT employee in that thread explained that the application collected large amounts of data for informational purposes that would soon be revealed to end users. A few months later, another reddit user, u/stoplightraver, posted the results of an examination into what data CAM was collecting. Once again, a NZXT employee confirmed those findings and promised that the amount of data CAM collected would be trimmed.
This weekend’s reddit post detailed further attempts from the community to obtain information from NZXT relating to CAM’s data collection. Within 24 hours, the thread had collected almost 500 replies from users, ranging from concerned to downright furious responses. The uproar led to a response from the founder of NZXT that was posted in the NZXT subreddit on Saturday morning. In the reply, NZXT_Johnny thanked users for the feedback and went on the explain what CAM does and does not collect from end users. Again, promises to curb bandwidth usage were made. At the end of the statement, NZXT announced that a Reddit AMA would take place once updates were made available to CAM. Strangely, the final lines of the statement also solicited applications for a software engineer to help improve the company’s offerings.
This spring, I purchased and installed NZXT’s Kraken x62 liquid CPU cooler and the Hue+ RGB lighting controller for my personal PC (which happens to be housed in the NZXT S340 Elite case). I have the CAM software installed and running on my PC to control the cooler functions and various lights connected to the equipment. After I viewed the reddit post from Friday night, I checked my own PC via the Windows 10 task manager and sorted running processes by network usage. Sure enough, NZXT Cam was at the top of the list, constantly using anywhere from 0.1 mbps to 0.5 mbps (as reported by the task manager). I then checked the monthly data usage panel in Windows and found that CAM had used almost 9GB of data in the previous 30 days.
Data collection from online-connected software is part of using any computer or electronic device in 2017. It has some positive benefits, but is certainly used for nefarious means by some. Is the amount of data being used by NZXT’s CAM software acceptable? For those considering NZXT products for an upcoming build or upgrade, will this affect your purchase? Are you a software engineer capable of clearing this up? Let us know in the comments!