Tag Archive: privacy


I guess everyone has heard by now the upcoming changes to Blizzard forums whereby every post or response will include the posters first and last name with the post. To say the response has been exceedingly vocal and negative is a rather large understatement. I am not sure if Blizzard was expecting this amount of vitriol and disgust but they got it regardless.
So what do you do as a company with over 12 million paying customers and a new feature you thought would be cool (and apparently is one step in a long line of changes you were envisioning) is so heavily and negatively responded to?

1. Do nothing

The first option would be to pretty much give the vociferously negative community the finger, implement the feature as planned regardless and force everyone to adjust. This is probably the easiest thing to do and (I hate to say it) very likely. There are a lot of problems with this, however.

As a company, Blizzard has stated many times that they listen and consider and act on player feedback. This one announcement has created more negative response than any other feature I can think of ever in the history of World of Warcraft. I may have missed something else but this trikes as me the biggest (feel free to correct me if I am wrong). To not respond to this would pretty much make all of Blizzard’s assertions that they listen to the players a moot point. You cannot be a company that “listens and cares” if this event doesn’t force you to do something about it.

2. Allow the name display option to be opt-in

Do you want to post on the forums but not show your real name? Just turn it off on your forum settings. There, problem solved. Real name display is still on the forums but only if you want to.

One big problem! What would be the point of real name display at all then. If you can just turn it off then all the reasons Blizzard said they were implementing this become pointless. Reduce the amount of forum trolls? They can just turn off real name display. Allowing an opt in would satisfy all the people that have a problem with displaying first and last name with every one of their posts, but essentially removes any benefit of having it there at all.

3. Remove real name display entirely.

This is similar and even simpler than Do Nothing above. Just don’t replace the existing forums at all. Or do replace them but add other useful features of Real ID into them, such as only showing your real name to people who are on your Real ID friends list, allow people to request being added to your Real ID friends list from the forum, etc. Adding those Real ID features might help push Real ID further while still giving people options and protection. If trolling is still the main driver for implementing real names in the forums, find alternate ways of fighting it rather. Have more moderators perhaps?

4. A Sum-up

Blizzard needs to do something. They need to alter their plans in some way to appease the very upset player base. Real ID needs to start including more control for an individual for it to really take off. As I have commented elsewhere, Real ID is an all or nothing experience. Either your friends you have added see everything you are doing on any of your characters across all Blizzard games all the time whenever they want, or you don’t use the feature at all and they know nothing. There is no middle ground, no “Offline mode” or “Do not allow Friends of Friends to see my details”. This lack of options to control what data is visible to who and when is what essentially prevents me from using Real ID. And the forum changes are another scary “all or nothing” feature. I may not care if my real name is displayed on the forums, my problem is not that. My concern is we have no choice in the matter.

All or nothing!

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Holy crap, but Blizzard are good at getting attention. In this case, the bad kind. If anyone has not heard yet, Blizzard have posted details that they are going to relaunch the Starcraft forums when Starcraft II comes out and the World of Warcraft forums shortly before Cataclysm releases with a rather scary new feature … everytime you make a post your RealID first name and last name will be displayed alongside your post. And here are the facts as we know them now:

  • There will be no way to not allow your name to be displayed.
  • This change will not be retro-active, so if you have posted in the WoW forums before, your posts wont have your real details with it, only new posts created in the new forums once they go live will have this feature.
  • Parents can only stop a child’s name from being displayed in the forums by using Parental Controls to not allow the child to post at all.

Blizzard have stated that it is opt-in. By that, they actually mean that its opt-in to make a post. Not opt-in whether they display your details or not. In other words, you can choose whether you want to post, but once you do, everyone knows your real name.

What difference this makes to me is negligible. My WoW persona is linked already to my real life details and personally I am not scared of the change. What does bug me however is that Blizzard is starting to slowly erode our ability to control our own privacy.

RealID for me is a big sticking point. While I am not afraid to share my real life details to people through RealID, what does bug me is that people I add as friends can see my online status no matter which character/realm/faction I may be on. There is a lot to be said for hopping onto an alt to get some “away time” from everyone that knows you in WoW, and its that away time that I treasure, not necessarily my anonymity.

And now, Blizzard have decided to remove even more privacy controls. Now, not just those you authorise to see your real name are allowed to, but if you post on the forums EVERYONE can! Sure, I might choose not to post there. In fact I rarely do. Its not just this one act taken as a single event that bothers me so much, its thoughts of the future.

Right now we have RealID in game, where adding people to it is opt-in. On its own sounds reasonable. We also now have the forums, whereby your real name will be displayed with each post. On its own its a bit more inflammatory, but at least you have the option to post or not. But what comes next? Will other aspects of WoW that we can’t avoid start becoming mandatory?

Again, its not just that I am paranoid about disseminating my personal info, its that I CHOOSE to. Choice is what people are losing with these “features” that Blizzard’s touts as a way to “bring the community closer”. Its the lack of choice about how personal information is being propagated into the sometimes-not-so-lovely world of the Internet.

In closing, while having my personal info out there is not that big a deal for me, it is for so many other people. The fact that these people’s rights to choose what private information is being exposed is being limited and impinged upon is what is causing the ruckus. Somehow this smacks of Facebooks attempts at trying to force people to start being more open with everyone else by resetting Facebook profiles to open with every privacy change (the reason my Facebook profile is disabled).