Blizzard Entertainment are about to screw their users privacy over

By | July 8, 2010 at 11:59 am | No comments | General | Tags: ,

It was recently announced that World of Warcraft maker, Blizzard Entertainment, are going to take their recent RealID service and implement it across their forums. Users will no longer be posting under their online aliases (character names) but will instead be posting under their real names.

I have to say I am shocked at how incredulous a move this is by Blizzard. Players of World of Warcraft invest A LOT of time into the game, and more often than not they are very competitive. Imagine what damage you could do with someones real name. *cough* Facebook *cough*

Online gaming has always been synonomous with abusive behaviour, trolling and a lower standard of consequence – thats the beauty of online gaming – you can be somebody else for a few hours and get away from the stresses of “real life”. This change by Blizzard strips all of this away and in an internet savvy age it is easy to gather information on someone starting with just their name.

What are the alternatives?

Blizzard has commented that the reason for this move is to combat the state of the forums: “a place where flame wars, trolling and other unpleasantness run wild”.  The main reason for this is the ability for users to create new characters within their accounts (level 1s) and post on the forums under this account hence the trolling and abuse. It’s undetectable by anyone other than Blizzard and is the ultimate veil of anonymity.

To combat this, Blizzard could implement two very simplistic changes:

  1. Don’t level level 1’s comment. Make them grind the character to level 10 or something (takes an hour).
  2. Allow users to see ALL characters connected to that account. This will show the “main” character of the troll and allow him to be outed and dealt with by his Guild directly – all online of course!

Incorrect & Expired Details

This move has also got me thinking of scenarios where this could go wrong.  When you register an account you are asked to supply your real name and relevant details.  If you are underage, you are asked for your parent or guardians details. Also, accounts are sold to other persons on a very regular basis (despite breaching World of Warcrafts ToS).

Imagine if:

  • Your son was making racist comments or sexual reference on Blizzards forums using YOUR name and your boss or family made a search for your name and found it?
  • The person you sold your account to 3 years ago has been abusive to a person online and that person takes it upon themselves to find that person. Yes, they’d be coming after you!
  • When you apply for a job you are subconsciously discriminated against because you play World of Warcraft. Breaking the mould of geeky gamers, many senior managers and business executives play the game.

When you think about it, the repurcussions of this are very high!

Privacy Concerns

Whilst the BBC article touched on “a few rare cases of online gaming disputes spilling out into the real world” it failed to mention that people have been killed over such disputes.

Imagine if you were to remove the veil of anonymity that people have been using to be less than savoury to other people and expose enough details to track somebody down? At what point does Blizzard get roped into legal proceedings for privacy breaches and called into accountability proceedings.

Surely the recent listing of a Blizzard Employee whose details including his home address, telephone number and family photos all through using only his REAL NAME should be enough to sway Blizzard’s ridiculous minds that this can only end up smelling of flowers.

It won’t, and it will cause Blizzard a world of hurt if they destroy their community this way!

About the Author

Kev Strong

Kev Strong is an online marketing consultant at Newcastle Upon Tyne based digital marketing agency, Mediaworks. A lover of all things search and an ex-web developer, Kev Strong (a.k.a Goosh) is a specialist in advanced search engine optimisation.

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