Note: I started to write this article with an entirely different spin on Real ID and what I think about it, but new information has changed things a bit. Read on to find out what I discovered.
One of the features of the recent 3.3.5 patch that I was most looking forward to happened to be the Real ID chat ability. Maybe I was mistaken, but it seems that there is a lot of concern regarding the privacy issues that come along with a feature like Real ID.
Real ID is meant to be a way to chat with players across different realms, across faction, as well as across different games using the Battle.net system. This is especially important when Starcraft II is released late July and many WoW players will be spreading their time between the two games. I can’t speak for all WoW players, but I know that my boyfriend and I will probably be spending a hefty portion of our free time trying the new Blizzard game.
The concept of Real ID is awesome. It’s something many other types of systems implement in different ways. Steam uses a universal chat system when you’re logged in. The difference with Steam is that you can choose to stay anonymous with regard to what people see. Real ID seems to be lacking in the privacy settings being available to the user to choose.
According to Blizzard’s Real ID FAQ, “Both players must first mutually agree to become Real ID friends.” Basically don’t go willy-nilly giving our your account email address and adding strangers as friends. As a tool, this can be really awesome. It’ll let you keep in touch with people with whom you regularly chat with even if they’re not logged into your game at the moment. If you need help doing something and see a friend online, a simple asking couldn’t hurt. This can easily be abused in wanting to have at your disposal a large group of people available to play games with. The child I’m taking care of has friended everyone and anyone he can on his XBox Live account. This works on XBox Live, where you don’t see any information that you don’t want to share. This definitely is not the case with Real ID.
The “Real ID is a system designed to be used with people you know and trust in real life — friends, co-workers and family”.
I would suggest you heed that bit of advice, because this next bit threw me for a whirlwind! Originally, I was thinking this system was great! A nice way to keep in touch with my Horde friends while I’m playing Alliance. Or with my boyfriend who juggles his time between his 7 (yes, that’s seven) level 80s. But oh ho ho, Miss Medicina let her readers in on a secret (or not so secret since it’s right there in the FAQ) that was not highly publicized about Real ID.
If you are using Real ID, your mutual Real ID friends, as well as their Real ID friends, will be able to see your first and last name (the name registered to the Battle.net account). You will also be able to see the first and last name of your Real ID friends and their Real ID friends.
Take a minute and reread that. Say this with me now. “Um, wut?!” Now let’s think about this for just a minute. You and I Real ID friend each other. But I also have my boyfriend, a Los Angeles friend, and a local real life friend Real ID-friended. You don’t know these other people. You probably don’t give a crap about these people. But you can see that they’re my friends. Not only that, but you see their real names. Not the online persona that many of us have grown to be associated with. I will always respond to Mailynn (in it’s various different spellings). But now your friends, who are strangers to me, can see my real name. And in turn, google it. Fine. I’m safe. Most of you can google my name now, but you’ll find a whole lot of articles about some older gentleman who’s the CEO of some company in the mid-west and is not even remotely related to me. I’m safe. I’m going to assume that not everyone is as lucky as I am to have an internet twin that gets more attention than you… and is of the opposite gender.
So I Real ID friended someone I know on Horde side. I know personal information about him. I know his girlfriend’s name. I know how many children he has. I know where about he lives. I know who is best friend is. The point is, I consider him a friend, despite only having known him in game. I’m okay with having him friended via Real ID and getting the chance to chat with him whenever I want to. I am not okay with the fact that my boyfriend’s name, my Los Angeles friend’s name and my in town friend’s name will be viewable by my Horde friend. This is overstepping some major boundaries.
At first I thought this was great. I’m going to get those people I love to chat with all the time and friend them! It’s okay, we’re friends!! I didn’t realize that Blizzard opened the door to cyber-stalking to the Nth degree. What changed my mind? I asked my friend Kurn via Facebook to be Real ID friends. She is the reason why I play WoW. I miss our days from Eldre’Thalas. I miss having her as a friend I chatted with regularly. She took her toon to other servers and that’s okay, so did I. Real ID should have been the perfect opportunity for us to keep in touch again.
She very politely told me “No” and the reasons why. She brought to my attention the dangers of Real ID, and not just the overblown perceived dangers. Sharing real life information across the game to people who are not friended is not okay. Do you hear me Blizzard?!??! Make this a feature that can be either a) turned off or b) removed entirely. I am truly missing out on the ability to chat with someone I adore and love because she has privacy concerns. Hell, I now have privacy concerns and may consider removing everyone but the boyfriend just to keep the information sharing to a minimum.
What’s your take on all of this? Are you going to simply ignore all Real ID requests? Do you think I’m making too much out of this? I’m curious to know.