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Blizzard comes out clean after WoW pants-down plans

Mild wrist-slap after threat to expose goblins

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Blizzard looks set to escape with nothing more than a mild rebuke after it abandoned plans to oblige members of the World of Warcraft (WoW) forums to reveal their real names.

The move was announced earlier this month as a means to stamp out abusive behaviour, such as flame wars and trolling, but was abandoned days later following a storm of criticism.

More than 20,000 posts objected to the move of WoW forums, forcing Blizzard to ditch its Real ID plans.

Some of those angry about the move also complained to UK privacy watchdogs at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). A spokesman from the ICO said that it had received 17 complaints from members of the public by Thursday.

A spokesman said there was unlikely to be enforcement action because Blizzard didn't actually apply the controversial changes, which would have violated data protection guidelines. Blizzard would have needed to tell people up front that it intended to use their real names on forums rather than using data (in this case real names) for reasons outside those explained at the time the data was collected.

ICO officials are likely to contact Blizzard only to confirm it hadn't applied the planned change, and possibly to remind it of its responsibilities under the data protection regulations, rather than embarking on any enforcement action.

WoW players upset by the move objected in large numbers to Blizzard's privacy de-cloaking plan complained to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The games industry group erred by sending back a mass mailed email reply to all the complainants, using cc instead of bcc, so that recipients could see a huge number of email addresses belonging to fellow complainants.

ESRB quickly apologised for the cock-up.

Meanwhile Blizzard is proceeding with its optional in-game Real ID system, which is already running in WoW and due to appear soon within Starcraft 2. ®

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