Real ID & forums, a cataclysmic failure

Thanks to Matticus for shoving this on the radar, though given the noise it’s creating (118 pages on EU and 882 on US the last time I checked).

So firstly what are they doing and what are they not doing.

  • New forums will be opened for Starcraft II & Cataclysm
  • The new forums will be using Real ID, and will be showing your real name on the posts
  • The old forums will not be changed
  • The old forums will be closed once the new ones are open
  • There is an explicit opt-in on the new forums making it clear that your name will be made public
  • The parental controls have been updated so minors can be blocked from the forums

So, where’s the problem, surely having your name on the net has happened a lot of times already.

True but I’ve controlled, as far as possible what my name is associated with on the net, having come online around 15 years ago when the mantra was “never give out your real name”, usenet was a brutal place and keeping some security and privacy was a critical lesson to learn and learn quickly.  As was having to deal with the trolls.

What Blizz appear to have forgotten is that data should only be released where there is a clear benefit, and where it cannot be achieved through other means.  In this case a fixed alias for each battlenet account would do the same trick of cleaning up the forums, it stops the creation of level 1 alts, it allows a mapping of one account -> one identifier (not necessarily one person though) and without having to release additional information and the associated meta information, think of all the players who if they want to use the forums will expose their gender, their ethnic origin etc etc.  There are plenty of morons out there who will latch onto that information, some in the antipication of trolling and others (white knights) in the vain hope they might get laid.

What about the players in gay friendly (or gay only) guilds, if they have decided to keep their sexuality private outside of WoW then can no longer post to the forums.

As things stand (and we need more information) there is also the breaking of the namespace.  At the moment we know that each ‘name’ is unique as it’s <alt name>+<realm>+<region>, we know that has to be unique because of the way the system is built.  How is that going to be managed when there are 200 John Smith’s posting to the forum.  There is no realm tie in, so there is scope for trolling on a grand scale with confusion over who is responding to who.

Security

Releasing more meta information is bad where it’s not needed, at the moment there are a few people who know my real name within WoW, I think it’s about 13 people, with another 10 who might be able to make the right connections.   Pushing my identity out into the wider world in connection to WoW gives a scammer another hook to try and catch me, why not guess at the email address I use normally?  Scammers aren’t afraid of spamming the world in the hop of a 0.01% return rate, this would allow better targetting of their attempts.

Follow the Money

The change isn’t happening in isolation to clean up the forums, there’s a bigger game afoot, social networking and the piles of money corporate execs see in it.  So Blizzard/Activision are teaming with Facebook, that highly respected paragon of good data security and practice.

Is this the final act?

Not a hope in hell, I personally believe these are opening moves, what was once optional (realid in game) has become “optional but we’re going to freeze you out of part of the service” and I’m sure will become “optional, unless you want to log into the game“.  One thought which has surfaced already would be embedding realID information into tooltips / in-game nameplates etc etc.

I’m not sure where they’re going to go, but as I said above look for the money trails, look for where they can make the extra cash off their database.  This is what the world is about at the moment, all the large companies are looking to do something with their databases, the suits see them as money in potentia and want to convert it into big piles of the folding stuff as quickly as possible before the current bubble bursts.

The last word

I’ll leave the last word on this to Ctrl-Alt-Delete

Link Farm

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3 Responses to Real ID & forums, a cataclysmic failure

  1. korenmolen says:

    I dislike the thresholds of privacy being moved like this. Not only because I guard my personal privacy carefully, keeping my online identity as separate from my legal name as possible, but also because it infringes with the fantasy world.

    I know that some of the players I play with are male, and some female – but their avatars are of different genders – it amuses me to think of my avatars having, if not a full RP presence, at least a flavour of it. Why should my own details be included in this game? I don’t want to go into a random pug and have my gender be known and be treated differently – the pug environment is hard enough as it is without extra hassle based on gender. Thankfully, there is nothing else to pick on – but there must be players who are transgender, or victims of harassment, or merely those who would rather stay away from their exes. That last class might be quite large, come to think about it.

    I’d really like it if we could have the option of selecting an account wide moniker – a unique identified not based on name. There are 11million players out there – surely we could have that?

    I doubt it though – too much has been invested in RealID for them to back down now.

    And yes, there are those who see no harm in stripping away privacy – some with the same arguments that there are for ID cards – there is nothing I have to hide, and this could help solve x problem – an argument that is unconvincing in both arenas.

  2. Avaryse says:

    I’m trying not to be a melodramist about this sort of thing, but it’s a very, very disturbing trend. Like you, I’ve been on the Internet since the mid 90′s? Now, if someone knew my old screen name, there’s tons of personal information to be gained – I’m only glad I never carried my old SN over to WoW. I’m more glad about it today than I ever have been before. My real name? So far, I’ve kept it out of the Google radar.

    The more I see of this, the more I foresee further strippings of privacy and options until it’s just a giant Facebook clone. My poor gamer heart is broken by this betrayl on Blizzard’s part.

    It’s not nearly the same (not as dire), but for all the people whose acceptance of this change is based on “It’s just your name, who cares. LOL my name is John Smith, find me”… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came… Eventually, there will be a chage that affects even the least of us in a way we cannot tolerate. (My threshold is only one step beyond this Forum debacle.)

    • Korenwolf says:

      Same here, I’ve been online since 1994, the mantra was “don’t tell anyone your name”, keep your information to yourself, you don’t actually know these people.

      This change is right on the edge of what’s acceptable and I strongly suspect it’s a first move, they’ve got other stuff planned. I strongly suspect that sometime in the next 3-6 months they’ll do something worse which will mean I’m looking for a new mmo.

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