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Blizzard Employees Face Denial Of Privacy Attack

Protesting the end of anonymity in Blizzard's forums, a self-proclaimed 'nerdy white male' aggregates information on Blizzard employees to highlight the privacy risks of real names.
Blizzard Entertainment's decision to require that people posting in the game company's official forums use their Real IDs -- a new "voluntary and optional" identity layer recently added to the company's online Battle.net service -- has prompted a protest that aims to deny privacy to company employees.

An anonymous user of Google's Blogger service, presumably one of the many Blizzard customers who have objected to the company's decision to deny pseudonymity to users of its forums, has gathered public information on Blizzard employees and posted the data in a series of blog posts to make a point about the value of privacy and the risk that accompanies exposure.

The data includes information about Blizzard CEO Robert "Bobby" Kotick and his wife, his political donations, his home address, and assorted other tidbits gathered from various online sources.

The anonymous poster states that the blog posts are not intended as a threat, as some have suggested. "I do not wish to see any harm or harassment come to ANYONE listed here, even Bobby," the poster insists.

Nonetheless, the person behind the posts notes that Kotick has three children.

The blog says, "Anyone messing with [Kotick's] family or kids is a sick ***, but you know what? There are a lot of sick ***** who play WoW, and as soon as this Real ID change goes live you will see daily news reports of people who got the attention of one of those sick **** and had their life ruined."

The point that the self-proclaimed "nerdy white male" blogger appears to be trying to make is that Blizzard's insistence on real names could expose players of World of Warcraft (WoW) to sexual harassment or abusive former partners, or jeopardize WoW players' jobs.

The belief that gamers may be stigmatized for their entertainment interests appears to be quite common.

"I am business professional during the day and a casual gamer at night," explained an InformationWeek reader posting an anonymous comment in response to prior coverage of this story. "These two worlds of mine do not mix. I do not want people I talk to in any online forum to be able to discover who I am in real life. This is not because I flame or troll, but because there are too many people out there that take things out of context and take offense when saying perfectly reasonable things merely because they are intolerant of opinions contrary to their own."

A Blizzard spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blizzard has justified its Real ID requirement for forum users by claiming that it's necessary to restore civility to online discussions.

"The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild," the company said in a forum post on Tuesday. "Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before."

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