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.
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