One of the features I was most looking forward to with battle.net integration was being able to chat with cross-server friends while in World of Warcraft, and ignore an entire account if someone was harassing me. Not that it happens often, but I can imagine most people get tired of ignoring level 1 alts when they’re being harassed by an arsehat.
A few clarifications
- I am on Facebook and yes I do add long-time guildies that I have known for years. I use the many privacy options where I can, and I don’t associate email addresses, websites or nicknames with my real name on Facebook itself.
- I have been cyberstalked/harassed in the past, as it were, and have in my time received a death threat. This came out of a) The guild meet being held at my house and b) a mentally ill individual who reacted badly to being asked to leave the guild. Since then I’ve been a lot more careful with personal information.
- So I take a medium approach to ‘security’. I don’t give out login names or passwords, I use different email addresses for my battle.net account. I limit use of my real name in association with my blogging and warcrafting.
You can read the Real ID FAQ in full here, and I am going to pick up on some pros and cons of Blizzard the Gaming Company moving into Blizzard the Social Media Company.
What is the Real ID System?
The Real ID system is an optional layer of identity (i.e. you the player as opposed to you the character) and will allow battle.net members to communicate across games, servers and factions. Instead of asking you to pick a player pseudonym, it will use the REAL name that is listed on your battle.net account – so your ‘friendlist’ will read much like a facebook friend list, as opposed to a xfire buddylist. They are, in essence, making battle.net into a full social networking system that happens to be connected to a computer game.
What Information do my Real ID friends get?
- Your real name
- The real names of all your friends.
- Your battle.net email. Even though it is not displayed, the initial contact with people is made by sending a real ID request by knowing each other’s email address.
- A list of all your battle.net characters in all games. Yes. All of them. No, you can’t hide any of them.
- Rich presence information – What character you are playing, what you are doing on any battle.net game
- Sending and viewing ‘broadcast messages’. Blizzard describes this as a ‘corkboard’.
- The ability to chat cross faction, cross server and cross game.
And if I don’t use Real ID? Can I get any functionality?
According to the FAQ you can still add characters to your friends list in the current fashion of a World of Warcraft buddy list, but it doesn’t work cross game, there are no cross-server/faction chat functions, and all you will be able to see is their on/offline status. I’m not even sure if that works cross server/faction either.
So what’s the real issue? It’s only my name.
And to friend someone in the first place, you need to know their battle.net email address. For internet security you should never need to pass your login out to anyone. While the amount of information that can be seen as far less intrusive than the amount of information that Facebook now gives out with default privacy settings, you only opt in or out. There are no granulated privacy settings. Even on Facebook it is possible to use a nickname if you’re really that concerned. I am on facebook and utilise the privacy features heavily because I have no wish to share all my information with my entire friendslist.
I have no idea whether I will use this service yet. I suspect there are one or two people I will share it with, but my ‘real friends and family’ either don’t play the game, or have my phone number/facebook/IMs to contact me by. One person I might share it with sits NEXT TO ME WHILE I PLAY. I don’t need real ID to communicate with people I already know well, I need something similar to communicate with acquaintances that I might not also want to give my real name and phone number to.
A very basic, intrusive Social Networking Site
If a Social Networking Site is going to be created, give us the same controls that a social networking site gives us. I have no problem using such a thing, but give us more control over our privacy. The ability to shield certain or most characters from it, use a pseudonym or a different email address to the one we use to login to the account with. I all I really want is my ‘friends’ to know that I’m online, not that I’m idling in Dalaran or base-jumping in Nagrand. I don’t want or need them to know the name of my Bank Alt, or my ‘get away from it all Alt’ on another server.
It is opt-in or opt-out (and parents will be able to prevent their youngsters from using it, but this requires the parents being informed enough to do so.) No granularity and with such features that many people will start using it without thinking twice about the privacy and account security implications.
An upside – Accountability
Currently the internet makes one anonymous. We can all act like arsehats and say heinous stuff without that much of a repercussion. If you act like an idiot on one character, you can log on as another and be viewed as a paragon of the realm community. Now? Anyone with your real ID will be able to see that it is you trolling trade chat and spouting homophobic garbage. Anyone with your real ID will be able to see that YOU are the notorious ninja of the server.
There will be the option to permanently block someone from contacting you. I don’t know if this involves knowing their real ID, or simply a secondary ignore function that will cover all their future characters, thus preventing harassers and abusers from trying to circumvent the /ignore feature. This would be a great step, especially if it doesn’t need Real ID for implementation.
I’ve seen a few guilds where management requires you to get our your Core Hound Pup to prove you have an authenticator – what impact could Real ID have on top level raid guilds? Will we see sharing your Real ID with the GM or Officers become a requirement for joining a top level guild?
I know of several women in top 100 guilds who are unlikely to want to share their real name with anyone, due to the amount of harassment they already receive in game. All it would need is for one person on a woman’s Real ID friendlist to have an arsehat on their Real ID friendlist, and that woman’s name could be leaked for all the trolls to see (and there is a never ending stream of anonymous players who are happy to call top level female players all kinds of names that a male player will rarely have to fear.)
There is a lot to explore, I think.
Aren’t you overreacting?
No, I don’t think so. If you completely trust everyone you share your Real ID with, more power to you. Be educated and understand that you are sharing the personal information of your current friends list whenever you add a new person to your friendslist.
I’m just somewhat worried, because the Facebook Integration was announced alongside the Real ID details. Facebook started out as a small and somewhat closed system, and look at what it is now – a global medium for sharing personal information, used by millions of people who don’t quite understand what they’re doing. The concern about battle.net is not about where it starts out, with the minor thing of sharing your game activities without filter and your real name with friends of your friends; it is about where it could possibly end up.
If you have nothing to fear, have never been stalked or harassed online, have never been hacked or had credit card details stolen, you’re very very lucky. The more information that you give out, the more possibility there is for it. Don’t dismiss people with privacy concerns as being paranoid just because you’re not worried. They might actually have a point.
Make sure you really read and understand the Real ID documentation before you use it. And make sure you don’t have any reason for the trolls to come after you. And make sure all the people you friend take the same precautions.