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”.
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.