The Armory Is An Invasion Of Privacy, Period

Big Brother Is Watching You

And posting your details on the Interwebz!

So, there are some new fancy features over at the WoW Armory, including a nice 3D model viewer of your characters. It’s really nice and I can’t believe it took this long for them to get it in there – FigurePrints have been able to access that data through the Armory backend for a long time. But good stuff, finally! And then there is the feature that has got some people up in arms – the “Recent Activity”-log.

It’s a simple feature, it simply updates what you’ve done in the game lately and on what day you did it. Like what bosses you’ve killed, which achievements you’ve pulled off, what loot you got. All that stuff that’s not really interesting to anyone except yourself most of the time. It’s even RSS-enabled, so if you want to pull your friends’ activity feeds into your newsreader of choice, you can do that. Why you would escapes me, but you can.

The problem with the activity log is that there is no way to turn it off. I can’t choose if it should be included on my Armory-page or not. So anyone who knows what my character is called and what server I play on can see what days I’ve played World of Warcraft and get some form of idea what I did on those days.

This has caused a discussion about invasion of privacy. A lot of people just don’t want their activities to be shared with the world. This has caused quite a debate on whether Blizzard, by pulling this data from their own servers, are invading our privacy or not. And, if they do, if it’s actually important. All kinds of weird stuff has been said, some valid, some insanely stupid. I thought I’d just sum up my thoughts on the whole affair…

…because I believe, quite firmly, that the activity log on the WoW Armory is a blatant invasion of my privacy. My privacy as a customer, a player and a private person. By not giving me the option to opt out or in, Blizzard is now sharing what days I’m playing WoW with the rest of the world. Not only that, they also show what I’ve been up to. No matter how you twist and turn it, it is an invasion of my privacy. I might not care, but it still is.

A lot has been said about how this feature could be abused, with the pro-camp pointing out how hard it would or how pointless it would be for a (for example) cyber stalker to use this information. I agree that in 99,9% of all cases, the WoW Armory data won’t do anyone any harm. But in that last 0.1%, if the option to opt out of the log would have helped someone from being hurt, it should have been there.

It’s not actually even about that. It’s not about what the data being shared by Blizzard could potentially do to harm me or anyone else. Maybe nothing will ever happen, chances are pretty good that it will never be abused. But I should still be able to choose if I want to share my in-game activity with the world or not. Seriously, you don’t have the right to see what I’ve done or haven’t done while I’m logged in. I can show you, if we both agree on it being in our mutual interest, but Blizzard just going ahead and putting it up there without asking me first will always be an invasion of privacy, no matter if I’ve signed the EULA or if it’s “only a game”.

Nayboor kitteh lolcat

I really couldn't resist including this picture, I am sorry.

I don’t have anything to hide. I am a rather public person. My contact information is readily available, my Raptr account sends an automatic tweet every day and tells the world what games I’ve been playing in the last 24 hours (including WoW). I will happily link my Armory profile (ignore the level 73 ring, I just came from a hiatus, remember). My name and e-mail is printed, every month, in a magazine that’s read by about 100 000 people. There’s a whole list of contact information on this very site. But I’ve chosen that. I choose what to share and what not to share. I will not have Blizzard making that choice for me.

I will keep logging in to World of Warcraft, even if I know what I am doing in there is being broadcasted to the world. I won’t rage quit, even if it was close there for a minute. I believe that Blizzard should have treated this matter in a much more delicate way. My gaming times, my achievements, my loot, my heroic dungeon runs…all of those things are my business and my business alone. Blizzard might have the legal right to do whatever they wish with that information (I did sign the EULA blahblahblahfnordblah), but I don’t think they have the moral right.

Finally – props to companies like Turbine, who allows you complete privacy control of what characters and activity logs to show on your Oh, here’s mine!

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  1. Scarybooster says:

    Seems like they saw what Raptr and Xfire were doing and wanted their hand in the cookie jar too, but looks like they shoved both hands in at same time.

    • Petter says:

      Either that, or they looked at other games and their community sites and wanted to add something similar – without remembering that those other community sites come with a lot of stuff in the background that the users have control over…

  2. Ysharros says:

    Standing up for one’s right to privacy doesn’t equate either having something to hide or being afraid of harm. If there is stuff that I do inside my own 4 walls that I don’t feel the need to share with others — and that includes what I do while I’m online (or at least the illusion of it there) — then it’s my own damn business.

    Then again, I live in a nation that happily allowed the government to turn this place into a no-holds-barred spy on your citizens state, so I guess I probably shouldn’t be exercised about this.

    But then, if nobody ever got exercised about anything, we wouldn’t have human rights, either.

    TL;DR version: I agree.

    • Petter says:

      Standing up for one’s right to privacy doesn’t equate either having something to hide or being afraid of harm.

      Exactly, well put. :)

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more, Petter. It’s obviously a clear invasion of privacy protected by the statement that “it’s just a game, who cares?”. Yes, the information is harmless is almost every situation but you’re completely right when you say that it’s the player business and their’s alone. Blizzard don’t have the right to reveal what we get up to in the game.

    It all raises some interesting questions about privacy online and how *everything* we do it tracked and how we depend on the companies we use to be responsible with it.

    • Petter says:

      Blizzard don’t have the right to reveal what we get up to in the game.

      Exactly. They might own our characters and all things associated with them, something I believe they should, but the activity log is showing us, the people behind those characters. It’s not much info, but it’s enough info to to be invasive.

      It all raises some interesting questions about privacy online and how *everything* we do it tracked and how we depend on the companies we use to be responsible with it.

      The word “responsible” is key here. I don’t mind Blizzard logging everything I do, that’s perfectly fine since I’ve accepted the EULA and believe they need to police our actions to catch “bad guys”. It is not a responsible use to share some of that information with the world, even in this quite limited form, without our consent.

      Great comments, Ysh and WFS!

  4. Yeebo says:

    I have to say I agree 100%. Yeah, it’s a pretty harmless invasion of privacy. However, if you don’t put your foot down when there is little at stake, you’ll eventually be forced into a battle where a lot is at stake.

  5. [...] As you probably know, Blizzard recently made their WoW Armory feeds public. This means that anyone and everyone can view a list of your in-game achievements and accomplishments. Big whoop, right? Not quite. This apparently innocent feature has caused quite a storm and lead many to deride Blizzard for invading our personal privacy. [...]

  6. [...] Don’t Fear  The Mutant has a severe problem with WoW’s Armory [...]

  7. Tesh says:

    It will be interesting to see if there is any fuss once cross-game monitoring becomes more prevalent. Apparently, you can already see when friends log into STO if you’re in CO, for example, and start up conversations across games.

    …but what if I don’t *want* people to know what I’m doing? (And yes, I’m allergic to Facebook…)

    Yes, there should be opt-in flags. It’s surprising that they didn’t include such out of the box… and more than a little arrogant. (Of course, the same could be said of government, as Ysh rightly notes…)

    Smart businesses (and governments) really shouldn’t be in the habit of annoying their patrons.

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