Real ID – Really?

I had told myself that I really was not going to weigh in on Real ID.  To each his own.  Some vehemently oppose it, some use it without abandon.  But the forums, they are a changin’.  They will soon be integrated into the Real ID program, and your full name will be displayed.  Let’s take a look at some of the concerns, and facts about how this impacts our gameplay.

The Concern – Privacy In Game

When you boil all the concerns about Real ID down to their base, its all about privacy.  That basic tennant of life that is so important, yet so incredibly fragile.  It is a fine line to dance, for sure.

The initial concern when Real ID was introduced into the game – Everyone can see your name.   And not just your toon name, your real name.  Any time you are logged on, you will be seen.  And not just those you share your name with.  Any friends of friends can see it.  It virtually exposes you to the whole world.

A secondary concern is that you have to give out your Battle.net account e-mail, which of course makes it that much easier for hackers.

The Concern – Privacy In An Online World

With the announcement of the Real ID forums, comes some other concerns.  Basically, when they flip the switch (which they say will not happen until cataclysm), all posts on the forums will be posted by your real name, with your toon name tagged just below.  The hope, for them at least, is to weed out the trolls.  Remove the veil of anonymity and the world will be a better place, right?

Basic Online Security

I work in the technology industry.  Both my boss and I are very conscious of what we do and post online, because we know where it ends up, having seen it first hand.

Basic online security starts with common sense.  Know that anything at all that you post will become public knowledge, google-able, so to speak.  Also know that whatever you post, no matter what the website says to the contrary, GENERALLY CANNOT BE DELETED, and will remain for the rest of the web, which is not likely going away anytime soon.

But online security is also knowing that most of what people post is a facade.  I posted about online personas a while back, and that is sort of what I mean.  Just understand that most people post, at best, half truths, and at worst, downright lies.

So…  Do I Use It?

Yes.

AHH!  The world is… NOT actually falling apart.  Let me explain.

While I currently work in the tech domain, I actually studied science – namely Biology.  There is a basic tennant in science, that even elementary school kids know, called the scientific theory.  Basically this is a set of directives in which all science experiments are conducted.  If you don’t follow it, to the letter, it isn’t science.  It goes something like this:  Hypothesize, Research, Revise, Collect Data, Review Data, Conclusions.  Each step in the process must happen precisely in that step.  And you know what – Right now everyone, including Blizz, is in step one – Hypothesize.

You see, we, as human beings have the tendency to jump right to the end, conclusions.  And after running my fair share of experiments, I can tell you that I am more often wrong than I am right.  JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING CAN HAPPEN DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL. I can make any chemical equation you want from any element on the periodic table.  But not all of them are possible, because of various reasons.

Let me put it into context of in-game Real ID.  YES, more people have access to your real, full name.  What can they do with that?  Well, I can see several possibilities:  Hacking accounts, harassment, (and some of the worse possibilities) Identity Theft, etc…  But out of those three things (and I know there are a RANGE of more possibilities, just stick with me), what is the most likely to happen?  Harassment.

You see, our generation has this bad habit of electronic vomit.  What I mean is all of our lives, our hopes, our fears, are dreams, our marital status, our health records for god sakes, are all ONLINE.  I am sure that if you were born after 1990, you probably have a facebook page, or god forbid, a twitter page where some people go to the extreme of posting bowel movements.  Do a google search of your own name, if you don’t believe me, and see what comes up.  There are firms who are paid to do this.  It’s called market research.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to the topic at hand – harassment.  With your full name, it would be easier for a crazy to get some other methods of contact, and poke at you.  That certainly is a big issue.  However, if you are absolutely VIGILANT about who you Real ID with, and what you allow to be online about yourself (No twitter for me!), then this system is no more threatening than JUST POSSESSING a facebook page.  The only thing you are handing out to the world, if you trust the person on the other side with your e-mail, is YOUR NAME.  Something that is already easily accessible.

What I am trying to say is, right now, you are probably more vulnerable than you really think you are.  Real ID is likely NOT going to contribute to this.  Besides, we don’t really have any data to show one way or the other.  We are a living social experiment.

But… The Forums

Yes, I know.  This one I am going to change tone on.  To put it bluntly, I think it is ridiculously stupid.

My company knows I play WoW.  In fact, it is sometimes a topic of conversation at the water cooler with my boss – Did I raid?  How did it go?  Did you get any new things down?  (He does not play, but does have a basic grasp on the situation).  HOWEVER, we all know very well that not all companies are as friendly as mine, and when I do change companies, that will be a secret delicately placed back in its bag.

I am sure that everyone has heard of or know someone who has been fired, or at least reprimanded, from activity posted on Facebook or Myspace.  Companies are smart, now days.  They look online to see what you really are like before hiring.  And let’s face it, gaming, especially WoW, still holds a certain stigma with it.  Your perspective employer may not like that you are involved with something like that.

And with your name, which you voluntarily give to the employer, and use to post on WoW forums, then becomes a ticking time bomb.  Especially if you are the type who trolls, or posts angry rants.

So, while I will continue using Real ID in game, Real ID on the forums effectively terminates all of my activity on the boards.

But… What Of The Children?!?!!  Won’t You Think Of The Children!?!?

While I hate to pull out the “be the goddammed parent” card here, that is exactly what needs to happen.

Take this opportunity to TEACH your children something.  Explain to them the potential dangers of internet life, and how to protect themselves.  Then, and ONLY then, set rules about what they can and cannot do.

In Conclusion

BE VIGILANT. Protect yourself.  And not just in WoW, in other aspects as well.  Educate yourself if you have to.  But, in all reality, Real ID when used in game is likely not going to make the world fall on top of your head.

EDIT: I just want to be very clear here, especially after reading Chastity’s post on Righteous Orbs – I am vehemently AGAINST the use of Real ID on the forums.  Real ID in the game – well…  Thats a personal choice.  My main argument is that Online Security goes far beyond Real ID and Blizzard forums.  And, in all honesty, you are likely FAR more exposed than you think you are.  Food for thought.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Real ID – Really?”
  1. Gronthe says:

    What a subject this has become! I read a comment somewhere from a person who said: “I signed up 4 years ago to play a game, not join a social networking site”. As far as Real ID in game, I suppose if anyone is willing to let others see what they are doing at any time on any character, that’s their choice. Of course, recent developments have shown serious security flaws in that system.

    Re: the forums. Such a touchy subject, but it appears to me that the majority of the players are against it. I work in accounting and have a foundation in economics and statistics. When attempting to arrive at conclusions on the behavior of market participants, you really don’t need as big of a sample size as one would believe. Nielsen ratings, you know, those pesky TV ratings in the US use 1,500 people in their research and extrapolate that out to the remaining 300 million americans. On the official forums there appear to be well over 20,000 people disagreeing with the plan to display real names on the forums in the future. In statistical research, this is definately a sufficient sample size. I believe as it relates to the future forums plans you can reach some conclusions…most of the playerbase is against the idea.

    I am a parent and teach my kids strictly about internet security. Privacy is important, because the loss of it can ruin you financially or worse. Overall it’s just a bad idea, and I’m afraid that potential profits for Blizzard and Facebook are clouding their judgement to the realities of what’s right and what people want.

    • Firespirit says:

      Gronthe:

      I agree. I think this is going to be the issue that is going to be discussed the most until before and after cataclysm hits.

      As far as statistics go, you are right, 20k are more than enough for a statistical sample. However, Blizz has said (and I tend to agree), that forums are just a cesspool for those most vocal, but not necessarily intelligent, people. To be a true statistical sample It would have to be randomly selected from active accounts. But, that really is semantics, and I don’t want issues like that to retract from the wholly important topic of the RealID, and Internet Security.

      Very good thoughts, for sure.

  2. deidriana says:

    If you feel the RealID on the forums is a step too far into your privacy, Please sign the petition! I know it might not help, but it also might.

    Use your Character name – realm!

    Thanks all!

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/37593.html

    • Firespirit says:

      Deid:

      Thanks for coming by and posting! I, personally, am not a fan of petitions, so I am going to refrain. I work at a company that has had petitions thrown at them. It is my experience that a petition with 4k signatures is not nearly as effective as a single, hand written letter. So I do encourage those who want to protest this to sit down and compose a letter and actually mail it to the head office. However, that being said, I will leave the petition up for my (tens of) readers to participate if they wish.

      • Nymesis says:

        Pen….check
        Paper….check
        Cool bottle of Mountain Dew…..check (So refreshing on a hot east coast day)

        I’ll write them a scathing letter regarding Real ID, the intrusion into my privacy and the fact that my account just got hacked. Lets make that even easier, perhaps they should just put my log in password on the screen minus one letter.

        After researching the Real ID feature, I would not have a problem with it, in game, because it is voluntary and I really don’t like anyone that much to give them that much of my personal information. I’m known as Nymesis when I’m logged in and I don’t need some Jerkface tryin to call me out sayin something like, “Scott, Why is your DPS so stupendiously awesome? or Why does your toon just seem to radiate awesomeness ? or Hey Scott, While you’re tanking the ground mind tying my shoes? KTHXBYE.

        Putting it out on the forums is another matter alltogether. I do not post on the forums, but I do read them from time to time for a laugh. I agree that there are trolls out there but why give them (the trolls) another means to grief the playerbase. I see what happens when one player disagrees with said troll. 2 words: Flame and Wars. I would not want that troll, should I be the disagreeing party, to be contacting me, in game calling me out with, “Hey Nub, W.T.F.?” I just don’t have the time nor inclination to feed the trolls.

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