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Real ID on = No Privacy Controls?

Posted 28 Jun 2010 by

Lum the Mad has given his take on Blizzard’s new Real I.D. system in World of Warcraft, and his thoughts could fairly be described as scathing. A few quotes.

With this feature, Blizzard essentially disengages the player from the avatar. Now, World of Warcraft is only very, very peripherally a role-playing game in the sense that your character may or may not be human and may or may not cast spells at mobile bags of improvement called ?monsters?. However, to this point, players have had the ability to be anonymous. That is gone. You see, the ?RealID? system is keyed automatically ? and unchangeably ? to the name listed in Blizzard?s billing system as the owner of your account. If I wanted to be known as ?Lum the Mad? ? which, in every MMO to date, I have had that option to do ? to protect myself from people who, just as a random casual aside, may have an unkind word or two to say to the real person behind the author of many of these blog postings ? I would either have to change my name in Blizzard?s accounting system (which I?m not even sure is *possible*) or simply shrug and say, oh what the hell, it?s not like there are unstable people out there on the Internet! I mean, it?s not like I?m female or anything.

There are no opt-outs in this system. There is no privacy protection within this system. There is no option for me to turn off the ability of my friends to browse my friends list. This system, in other words, is even more draconian about its enforced disdain for privacy issues than Facebook?s. When you make Facebook look like a paragon of privacy defense, there may be an issue or two. You can?t even opt out from the system itself.

Why would Blizzard launch a social network with no privacy protection and no opt-out features whatsoever? Because they think people who are concerned about privacy are stupid and worth laughing at. And because in Activision?s august halls, someone looked at World of Warcraft?s millions of subscribers and Facebook?s billions of advertising revenue and said ?Hmmm.? And no one thought any of this through.

As he points out, using the Real I.D. friend system is optional, but since it’s much more feature-rich than the existing in-game friend system, it’s hard to resist. Also, while you can choose your friends carefully, you have no idea who their friends are, and they also can see your info.

As we’ve said before, the 2.0 systems seen in WoW and SC2 will surely be in D3 as well, so this isn’t just something Blizzard’s doing in their other games; it’s our future as D3 players. Neither I, nor Not-Sure-If-Want-Dog, are sure this is a good thing. Your opinion may vary. In any case, the comments would be a good place for you to voice it.