Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 01, 2007
 
The end of virtual privacy

In the real world, if a government decided to launch a web application into which you just have to type a name and get all the possible information and data about any of its citizen without his consent, there would be an outcry of privacy advocates. In the virtual World of Warcraft, Blizzard did just that. The Armory (still in beta right now) (click here for the European Armory) allows you to type in the name of any World of Warcraft character, select the one you want if there are several with the same name, and see all his stats, his gear, his reputation points, his skills, and his talent build, as well as his guild. And apparently there is no switch in your World of Warcraft interface to disable other people viewing your data. If you play, all of your data are now public. Soon many guilds will use The Armory for checking out candidates for recruitment.

Now I don't mind people using applications like CTProfiles (which now will die a screaming death) to exchange their data if they want to. But where are my virtual privacy rights if Blizzard just makes my data available to everybody? At the very least the players should get a screen when logging on the next time allowing them to make their data private. Your only hope of hiding right now is to name your elf hunter some variation of Legolas (there are over 400 of those on the US servers alone) and tell nobody what server you are playing on. There are 11 Tobolds on European servers, and 9 in the US. :)
Comments:
There are 3 people who share my name across Europe so I'm one of the unlucky ones.

Bye bye Arena skill - your opponents will already know if you're fire based, frost etc - they'll know if you can silence their casters, they'll know whether you're pet is a threat or not... Arena chess just became Arena Ludo.

Plus, for those of us who 'immerse' ourselves in the world and our character, it feels like walking down the street with everyone seeing through your clothes, knowing what's in your pockets, and whether you have yesterdays underwear on. I HATE it, and am protesting strongly.
 
where are my virtual privacy rights if Blizzard just makes my data available to everybody?

Whose data?

Do you object to people 'inspecting' you in-game too?

It doesn't show how much gold you have, or what's in your bags or bank. There is nothing there that could really harm your reputation in-game. All the data made available are generally uninteresting stats. Just stating your character's name and server is as much as a privacy disclosure as anything now made available on the Armoury.

Don't get me wrong, I am close to being a privacy nut, but I can't get excited about this. Well, I can, as it's pretty cool, but I simply don't see my privacy being infringed here.
 
Hmm, okay, it can make a difference in PvP. It's not a live system though, so you could game the system and respec before a fight if you really wanted.

Maybe I'm wrong here, but maybe the information you're worried about being made available through the Armoury is all ready spread by word-of-mouth in-game, if you have sufficient reputation in the PvP arenas. The PvP players I know all knew their opponents well enough, without needing to check out their CTProfiles.
 
Your mistake is that you think it is your data. It is not. It belongs to Blizzard.
 
I think it's a brilliant move. In the long run this solves more problems than it creates. The thing hides bags, bank and amount of gold, wich is interesting, though it may should hide talent builds too.

Vanguard even takes privacy to the next level, with making screenhots on its own and publishing those on your characters profile page on their website.

All those "bad" things coming with such a system are kinda obsolete, cause you could already search CT, Allakahzam anc Co for your opponents builds and stuff. Now it only takes way less effort.

I really like it, although the UI performace is really bad yet. Let's blame the beta label.
 
From what I've read of the really serious PvPers, there's a limited number of specs that would be considered for each class in the arena anyway, some of them obvious from the gear worn. I suppose the Armory removes the possibility of someone coming up with an amazing twist to a spec that allows them to really surprise opponents, but with legions of Theorycrafters out there, the chances of coming up with a unique and effective spec must be pretty minimal.

An interesting analogy someone made is to video analysis in sport, it's just another element of the game. If someone figures out when and how the character snapshots are taken, it could be even more fun with bluff and double bluff like Chu-chu said (put on strange combinations of gear, respec into weird talents...)
 
CTprofiles gives the opportunity to show your FR/NR/AR tanking/healing/dps +dam/+crit set and a wishlist...
I don't think Blizz will add that?
It seems to me they only made a searchengine around a database they already had.
 
Although I don't really care if people can see my gear/stats....I'm amazed blizzard would put time into something almost useless like this. In PvP it can really make almost no difference, the fights in arena are random, and unless your know you are going up against a certain person...what does it matter what spec they are? If they are a shadow priest...I'm going to always assume they have silence, i'm not going to look up their profile to make sure they have silence.
 
This is great and fun to look at other builds.

Anyone that says this is an invasion of privacy is just a bit paranoid and silly.

its a bit slow right now, but kudos to them spending development time on this instead of a new area to level from 20-40, 40-60.
 
Damn it... there is another Troll Shaman named Tanglefoot in this World of Warcraft!
 
Targeted selling spam now maybe? Just pull up a quick list of all L70 Warriors on your server how *don't* have the Sword of a Thousand Truths that you just looted, take down the names and away you go with the cold-calling!
 
I'm glad you blogged about this Tobold. I consider you the voice of reason in most matters WoW.

However, in the words of Tyler Durden..

"You are not your World of Warcraft character"

Tobold in WoW is not Tobold in life. It's just a virtual character you move around with your keyboard from time to time.

I don't feel violated that someone knows I have the Staff of the Beasts on my druid, or that my spec is feral/hybrid, or that for whatever reason I'm farming Sporeggar rep. My virtual characters in WoW are just that, virtual, playthings I pay a monthly fee to play with.

I have zero issue with this. The utility this provides for guilds is fantastic. No longer do you need a tool to track your guild population.

This is no coincidence that it corresponds with the bolstering of the competitive arena ladder system. To use a American football scenario, it's like watching film on your opponent before the actual game.

For those worried about showing your gear to the world, I suggest putting on your full Twill set before logging off.

One suggestion I'd like to see is perhaps a login feature so that only actual WoW account holders can see data. This isn't happening though. What better way to attract new folks then show off all the shiny crap you can get to the non-players?

I will admit, I'm unversed in litigation surrounding virtual property. In this instance however, with this game world, I just don't understand what all the fuss is about. I'm open and listening and hope the dialogue can continue.
 
Complaining about this is like the people whining about censorship on the forums.

World of Warcraft and it's related forums are not democracies. I dub them voluntary dictatorships. :)
 
I spent my lunch hour looking up friends, and characters who share my characters' names. Good fun in my opinion.
For those crying 'oh no, everyone can see my spec and my gear' - get a life; do you really think you are that unique?

*Vlad*
 
Yeah I am going to have to give this feature a big thumbs up despite the protests about privacy. I like the idea of being able to inspect the top winners of each pvp bracket. Plus as much as the third party sites are useful they still have a tendency to be kinda crappy and full of gold ads. If Blizzard starts providing decent game information services then the third party sites will have to improve themselves.
 
It's not even new -- it has existed for years in EQ, EQ2, and DAOC. I use them to look at my own character's builds when I'm out of game and want to double check something. It lets me look up a guild if I want more info; amuse myself by looking for other characters with the same name on different servers and so forth.

I suppose it might have some pvp impact, but based on how long it has existed for DaoC I'm dubious.
 
WHOAH. My Warlock's name is entirely unique. No one else uses it. Wow.
 
Seems far from perfect though - I was able to find myself (and one other person using my name on another server), and it correctly listed my guild, etc - but when I did a search for my guild, it came up with 4 other realms that had guilds with the same name, but not the one on my server. Weird.
 
Well, there seem to be one thing you can do to hide your character, deactivate your account ;)

I am pretty certain that my characters will be there if I reactivate my account, but I cannot find any of them when I search for them using this service. So I assume it is only active accounts that are considered.

It is a bit similar to the EQ2Players service, although more limited. With EQ2 you can select if and what info should be public though.
 
I already knew where you live (in World of Warcraft) :)
 
Turns out there's plenty of Chareths. Only one Trimeggian, though- go go gadget obscure Vampire: the Masquerade NPC name stealing!
 
i think the only problem that will arise from this are from the "i know better than you" people. Your fellow guildmates will critizise you for wasting talent points in something, and try to turn everyone into clones. I think if people can get over the fact that not everyone spec's exactly like they think you should, then i don't see it as a problem.

personally i like it, cause if you know players who play well, you can see what equipment and talents they have and overall make you a better player.
 
This prompts two reactions:

1 - The 'inspect' function in game lets me examine the specs of the armor of a nearby character. It doesn't provide a summary of the overall stats for the toon, which The Armory is great for, but if you have the base stats for the race at that level and apply the equipment buffs you can, in principle, calculate the overall stats. Except for the effect of buffs, and debuffs, of course. So The Armory offers better info than in-game, which seems inconsistent for Blizzard.

2 - there was a big fight in the Second Life world a while back. A blogger started posting 'upskirt' images, which caused him to get banned from the forums. As it turned out, he was a troll ... the images that he was posting were from an avatar of his own creation. This raised all sorts of fundamental questions. Are pictures of the underclothing of a female cartoon character owned by a male real person prurient? He purported to be violating privacy, but really he was being an exhibitionist. So if you think online privacy questions are raised by The Armory, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

NYGeek
 
i think the only problem that will arise from this are from the "i know better than you" people. Your fellow guildmates will critizise you for wasting talent points in something, and try to turn everyone into clones.

Yeah, that is one of my fears. If everyone can see everybodies talents, they can start criticizing them for off-standard builds, and soon there will be "accepted" boring builds that everybody uses.

In the real world my data should better be private because of the danger of identity theft. I wonder if identity theft could happen in the virtual world as well. Get the data from your worst enemy and use them to write a fake application to another guild on your server, mentioning details of the character to make it believable, and some comments like "my current guild sucks" to get the guy into trouble with his guild.

The only good thing is that they don't link the character data to the account name, because otherwise people would know in advance who would be good targets to scam with phishing mails and keyloggers.
 
heh - now those that know me can dig through the army of ALTs I've grown and see how poorly I've developed *every* *single* *one* of them :)

Meh - my life is more than my ct-profile or my armory character sheet. Pity those that feel otherwise.
 
"Your mistake is that you think it is your data. It is not. It belongs to Blizzard."

Blizzard also knows my credit card number and password, but I don't see them posting that data anywhere (thankfully)
 
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