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What Data is NZXT's CAM Software Collecting From You?

Is NZXT’s CAM software's data collection crossing the line for owners of its PC hardware?

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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!

Contributing Tech Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 15, 2017 6:20 PM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, What Data is NZXT's CAM Software Collecting From You?

    • reply
      July 15, 2017 6:33 PM

      9gb?!?! Wtf

      Imo software that controls fan speed or colors shouldn't even require an account, that's just BS.

      • reply
        July 15, 2017 6:41 PM

        I promise I will fix this as soon as it affects my income

      • reply
        July 16, 2017 8:15 AM

        I just sign in as a guest.

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        July 19, 2017 10:12 PM

        yea it sounds like complete horseshit to me. i wonder if it can be filtered / blocked by a firewall or router somehow? i dont know enough about networking

    • reply
      July 15, 2017 6:47 PM

      Is the amount of data being used by NZXT’s CAM software acceptable?
      No. Fuck no. Telemetry is something everyone has to live with these days and does actually help to make better products but at the most something that controls fans or colors or whatever should send just a few MB of data in a month.

      • reply
        July 15, 2017 10:29 PM

        It seems like they're gathering as much as they can, then they can eventually figure out what to do with it.

      • reply
        July 16, 2017 7:40 AM

        I don't think telemetry collection is something we should give up on. There's no reason the telemetry data is required to make the product work.

        • reply
          July 16, 2017 8:41 AM

          Not to make it "work", no. But to make it better and let the company focus on features that people use and improve how they can use it, telemetry is absolutely important.

          • reply
            July 16, 2017 8:44 AM

            I suppose, but they should have opt outs, they do not need 100% of the data, probably only a small fraction of that to get representative samples, and in this case it's dumb because it's a cooler, it's not that complex, you set fan/pump curves against temp and that's all you really need. It's not a hyper complex problem. We've had this technology for generations. These are simpler than car radiators from the 1960's.

            • reply
              July 16, 2017 8:47 AM

              Also there's just general irresponsibility out there in implementation, as we see from OP.

              "OH SHIT ADD TELEMETRY" and its rushed out the door because someone screams for it "now" and the engineer shits out a poor implementation.

              • reply
                July 16, 2017 8:50 AM

                I'm definitely not excusing the implementation. Someone really fucked up for that thing to be shitting out 9GB of data in a month. Either that or they're being intentionally nefarious.

                I collect telemetry on my mobile apps and it absolutely helps me know where to focus my efforts or inform users about because they're not using something that could make their lives easier since I haven't told them about it. It might be fan control software but people should still take pride in their work and want it to be the best $ThingOfItsKind available.

                Still, shitty implementation is shitty.

    • reply
      July 15, 2017 7:17 PM

      more like spy cam software

      • reply
        July 15, 2017 11:43 PM

        Now you have me trying to remember all the times I had my titties out while dialing in my overclocks....

        • reply
          July 16, 2017 1:21 AM

          i didn't realize there was another way to do it

    • reply
      July 16, 2017 6:18 AM

      This is a really interesting article. Thanks, Chris!

      I have an NZXT Kraken X60, and I didn't even know this was happening...

    • reply
      July 16, 2017 7:32 AM

      I thought I'd mention one correction, which is that you never have to register an account in CAM if all you're doing is configuring a Kraken/HUE+, actually.

      I have a HUE+ and I am able to access all of the functions while logging in as a guest. That said, I don't use a Kraken (though my Corsair H100i GTX is recognized as one since they are the same thing from the same OEM, basically), so all I ever do is fire it up, configure the HUE+ and then shut it down again. The HUE will remember the settings for as long as it's got power. Though I guess you probably need to leave it open for the temperature/use-based settings or volume-based settings.

      • reply
        July 16, 2017 8:16 AM

        I have a Kraken and have never had to register - and it works fine.

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      July 16, 2017 7:39 AM

      Yeah I uninstalled CAM that came with my X61 almost immediately. They wanted me to use a friggin login to use a cooler, etc? It always seemed more than slightly questionable.

      Same reason I refuse to use GFE. I'm drawing the line on using accounts to use hardware in my physical possession.

      This is 100% inexcusable behavior for physical goods when there is no real reason you need a login or all that bandwidth to allow them to work, or even any sort of internet connection at all.

    • reply
      July 16, 2017 7:41 AM

      Suggestion for a follow up article: show how to use the Windows firewall to block the traffic.

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      July 16, 2017 7:44 AM

      What more evidence of collusion do people need before something is done about NZXT?!?

      • reply
        July 16, 2017 7:45 AM

        NZXT's son caught with the data, on camera, naked, "wearing" a buttplug, with a dozen nuns as witnesses.

        • reply
          July 16, 2017 8:47 AM

          pretty sure NZXT can kill someone in broad daylight on fifth ave and now get charged.