I’m a person who has long argued that there is no privacy on the Internet,there never was any privacy on the Internet, and that pretending otherwise is a comfortable delusion people craft for themselves in order to not freak out thinking about how much of their personal information is floating around in the ether.
Having said that…Blizzard is seriously out of bounds on this one. The concern isn’t just the forums. If it was, we’d all just shrug and go on with our lives; I can’t remember the last time I read the official forums, much less posted to them. And as you can see, I post to Usenet with my real name and e-mail address, and have done so for 20 years, so I’m not overly concerned with people finding me .
But then, I’ve never had a stalker. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I’ve never been the victim of identity theft. I’ve never been harassed because I’m female, or gay, or transgendered. But I know people who fall into every single one of those categories, some of them very close to me. Their concerns about protecting their identity from random strangers are real, substantial, and very much valid.
Right now, it’s just the forums, but what happens when they decide to reveal your real name to people using the Armoury? Or an in-game query against your character? As much as I generally regard slippery-slope arguments as a fallacy, it does seem very clear that Blizzard has a cavalier attitude towards its users’ identities, and that is troubling.
It’s one thing to soapbox about the illusion of privacy on the Internet, and another thing to simply blatantly ignore the importance of the illusion and flagrantly expose your users’ information. There may be only the thinnest line between you and the world, but that thin line matters; it’s part of the social contract that allows the Internet to function.
Bad move, Blizzard. Very, very bad move.
More reading on this that I liked: