Some Problems with Real ID

24 Jun

Real ID, the topic of discussion all over the blogosphere right now. We’re going to talk about it again today, because I feel like talking about it again. Today though, we’re going to look at the problems with Real ID. More specifically we’re going to look at the problems with Real ID and we’re going to look at the “problems” with Real ID.

I don’t think that any of the problems or the “problems” with Real ID are real, honest to goodness Problems with Real ID. Most of them are problems with people having different levels of personal (in)security, or people simply having different desires for how and when to use it. I’ll get into the specifics on that further down. I’m going to talk about some issues that people have brought up that I feel are valid, and I’m going to bring up some issues that I find ridiculous and why. In this post you’ll get a full serving of Psynister’s Opinion, as what I write here is nothing my that my own thoughts and feelings on the issues that are brought up. For each problem I’m offering a solution. If you don’t agree with the solution then feel free to let me know why. If you have other solutions to add, then please share them with us in the comments.

Your DBM addon might be sending you warnings right now, but just ignore the big bad wolf’s advice to run away, it’s just letting you know that Psynister is about to cast Wall of Text in 3…2…1…

Psynister Psychology
I ask that while (if) you read this, regardless of whether you support or reject Real ID, that you read with an intention of understanding rather than an intention to respond.

As this is an issue that puts some people on the defensive the two reactions of human nature are to either reject it by going on the defensive with blinders on or to run away from it. If you’re feeling insecure or defensive, please try to take the time to read and try to understand what I’m saying. Don’t take it as an attack on your beliefs or your feelings, take it as me trying to help explain something you don’t understand or don’t fully see even if you feel that you do. If you read it, think about it, and still disagree or think I’ve misunderstood, then please let me know in your comments. We can’t progress if neither of us understands the other.

If you support Real ID and feel that the people against it are just a bunch of whiny little babies, then I suggest you do the same thing. Take the time to try to understand the reason for the person feeling that way. It’s not always going to work for you, but I’m just asking that you take the time and make the effort to understand their real problem before you just dismiss it. While defensive people can be blinded by their fears or insecurities, the aggressive people often feel that they’re free to brush aside everyone’s concerns like they’re meaningless. Just because I feel safe and secure in giving everyone my name and email address doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for harm in doing so. Don’t just dismiss things, read with intent to understand not with the intent to respond.

Problem: No Invisibility Mode
Of every argument I’ve seen against Real ID, this one is one of the most valid. A lot of players, perhaps even the majority of them, like to be able to play at times to just get away from everything and everyone for a little while and just do their own thing. They like to log in and go play on some other server where they don’t know anybody and just do whatever they want without having to deal with guilds or friends or anything else.

My wife does it, Arrens does it, and a lot of other players do to. People like being able to play the game now and then just for the sake of playing the game and not being bothered. I don’t blame them a bit.

I say it’s a valid point because it directly impacts your playing experience. If you can’t log in and have a break from the noise now and then, and you’re the type of person that needs those breaks, then you may not enjoy playing as much because you can’t just get away from people while still playing. You’re playing the game to get away, to relax, to not be bothered, and having people be able to whisper you wherever you are is draining and annoying, it interrupts that down time.

Solution: This feature doesn’t exist, so we have to either not use Real ID, deal with the loss of alone time, or find a way around it. The work around is simple, but it’s not going to appeal to everyone. If you want to have your invisibility mode the first thing you need to do is turn off all of those notifications in the Real ID options. I talked about how to do all of that in yesterday’s post, The Real (ID) Story. By turning off those options you will not be interrupted by people logging in and out, and you will not see their broadcast messages. The only thing you will see are Real ID whispers, which we’ll to address next.

Next up, you need to set your status to Busy or Away so that your Real ID friends see the flag and know something’s up. They’re yellow and red spheres against a grey-blue background which is going to stick out. If they see it then they should know you’re not sitting there ready and waiting for conversation.

Finally, you need to set your Broadcast message to something similar to this: Need some down time, please DND. Your broadcast message is shown to anybody who you’re Real ID friends with when they see your name in their list. By putting that message up you’re letting everyone know that you want some alone time for a bit and don’t want to be disturbed. Your real friends are going to honor that and leave you alone. The annoying people you clearly don’t want bothering you all the times are going to ignore it, and as such should be removed from your list.

The reason this isn’t going to appeal to everyone is pretty nicely summed up by Kurn’s Thoughts on Real ID. You may also be in a situation similar to Tartdarling’s where your friends are the type of people that just like to bug you all the time in the names of fun and love. If you’re in Kurn’s position then it’s going to be hard and this solution might not work for you. If you’re in Tart’s position, well you’re probably the one that started it all anyway so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Problem: Real Name Visibility
This problem is such a multi-layered beast that it’s really hard to talk about without either going too light or to heavy on the subject. It’s like twelve problems all wrapped up into one because they’re all the same problem, yet it’s a problem for various reasons that apply to some but not others. I’m going to summarize it though and break it down into just two groups.

First, we have the people that just don’t want others to know their real names. The motivations for this are almost endless. Some people have names that they’re embarrassed of or they don’t like their given first name and go by another name instead. Some people like to play the role of their character or their persona that isn’t them, such as men who play female toons or who socialize as females, and they don’t like having that broken. The person might be insecure about who they are but who find security by having a sort of second life that they can live through their characters. Others are important people in some form or fashion and don’t want to have their real name linked to their in game persona. Basically, for one reason or another they wish they could hide their name because they’re uncomfortable with people (all people) seeing it.

The second group is made of those that like to immerse themselves into their characters as well as the game. They aren’t just a player, they are their toons. They don’t want to be known by their real names, they want to be known by their character names. You can take a look at Chawa’s Post for an example of that one.

As someone who plays on multiple servers and also has a twitter/blogging presence I understand this one a lot. It doesn’t bother me, but I do understand it. On my original server I was known as Psyn or Psynister, but on the following server I was known as Lex (Lexington), yet on my current server I’m known as Bel or Bels (Belsynis). On twitter and in blogs I’m again Psynister or Psyn. On the one side I like that separation because it helps me keep things straight, but on the other hand it’s easier if people everywhere just know me as Jason so they don’t get confused when a Psyn friend talks to a Bels friend.

Solution: The solution here is hard because of the complexity and diversity of the problem. The first thing you need to do is be realistic about what’s really out there. A name is just a name, even if it’s your name. Without any other information tying that name to you as a person it means nothing. Jason Griffith, who’s that? Well, it’s me but it’s not necessarily me. Even if it’s a unique name it’s still just a name. Dragon McKinsey, who’s that? Is it a boy or a girl? I know who it is (and also that I completely butchered the spelling), but do you? Britney Spears, know that one? You might think you do, but is it really the one you think it is? Daniel P. Howell, know that guy? Well you might think that’s a fellow known in WoW as BRK, but without any further information you don’t know that for sure.

If you’re one that’s uncomfortable for reasons like always playing female toons so I think you’re a female when actually you’re not and your real name is Richard Pelowski, then I can only tell you so much about that one. If you don’t want people to know then you either need to lie and say that it’s your dad/boyfriend/brother/son/whatever’s name since they set the account up for you, or you need to consider what it’s going to mean for people to know. If you’ve got some in-game relationships going on and they don’t know it then maybe you’ve got an issue on your hands, but if that’s the case then it’s really about time for a little honesty anyway in my opinion. But, that’s my opinion.

If you’re in a position like Chawa there, well it’s another hard answer because it’s going to vary. For the most part, if you’ve been playing with someone for a long time then the name they associate with you is the name they’re going to call you by. I’ve got a buddy who names all his characters Night-something or something-night, but his real name is Chris. I knew his real name long before Real ID came about, but I don’t call him Chris, I call him Night. I’ve got a buddy I went to college with before I even started playing WoW, I don’t call him by his character name of Kaladar, I call him by his real name because that’s who he’s always been to me.

Generally speaking, most people are going to call you by the name they’ve called you by the longest. Not to mention there are a ton of Jason’s in the world and probably on your friend’s list, but you probably don’t have a lot of friends known as Psynister, so it’s easier to call me by the character name anyway for confusion’s sake.

And yes, people can Google a name and find out other information like addresses and phone numbers, but without any other information than your name there’s nothing to link it to you. And in case you aren’t aware, you can have your address and phone removed from phone books and sights that replicate their data.

Problem: Account Security
Account Security is either a big deal or it’s not, depending on how you handle things on your own end. The problem is that your email address is required for Real ID to work, yet your email address is the user name you have to log into WoW with. By default there are only two things you need to get into your account, a user name and a password. By using Real ID you’re giving one of those up so someone only needs your password in order to hack your account.

Solution: The first thing I want to point out is that Blizzard has said in giving us this tool that it’s meant to be used with those people who you know and trust. If you don’t trust someone, then don’t give them your Real ID information. If you hesitate on that point then you need to ask yourself whether or not you feel like you know them well enough to trust them not to hack into your account (or if they’re skilled enough with a computer to do it in the first place).

You should also be taking other steps to ensure your account security in the first place. The best thing you can do for yourself as far as protecting your WoW account goes is to get an Authenticator. You can buy them from Blizzard for about $7 USD, you can get the app for free if you have an iPhone, or you can get the app for a Droid for about $2.50 USD if it’s not already free by now anyway. While not completely flawless in security terms, it’s about as close as you can get.

Whether you have an authenticator or not you should be running virus protection software and doing regular scans on your computer as well. The only way to beat an authenticator is with a virus. The best way to beat that virus is to find it and remove it before it can do you any harm.

Next up is your password. Don’t ever use a simple password like “qwerty”. It might be hard to remember a big password sometimes, but that’s really the point. Don’t just use letters and numbers in it either, use some special characters too. And make sure it’s got some length to it because every individual character in your password makes it multiplicatively harder to figure out with a program. The longer it is, the better it is. And don’t hesitate to change the password every now and then as well.

The big thing here is, if Blizzard didn’t feel that your account was safe enough that you could give out your email address and still be secure, then they wouldn’t have used it as the identifier in the first place.

Problem: No Nicknames
This is the most common suggestion I’ve seen from people to replace the real names on the accounts. A lot of people said they would use Real ID if they could just hide their real names with a nickname or a character name, of if they could use that nickname for their invitations instead of an email address.

The problem behind using nicknames is that there’s no validity in them. Anybody can use any nickname they want to. If you decide to take over the nickname of Psynister before I can, then I’m locked out of the name because you beat me to it, but you could offer to be friends with people using a name that I’m largely known by. You could essentially steal my identity even if your main character in the game is named Psynister and just happens to be on a server that I don’t play on. We both have a claim to that name, but only one of us can have it.

The same is true of character names, even if you string it to a full definition of Name-Server-Faction-Region. It would work and be unique while I had the character, but if I ever delete the toon and someone else makes one with that name then they’ve taken over that identity and there’s nothing I can do about it.

The other suggestion is that we use the login names that we had before we all switched over to accounts that required email addresses. But that one doesn’t work either because there are players who joined after they stopped using those names and offered only the email login.

Solution: The solution here is the only solution that there can be, which is what Blizzard did. They used a unique identifier that cannot be duplicated in this environment, and that does not compromise your security as a real person. There cannot be two people in the world with the same email address, it is unique. Almost any other form of unique identification has the potential to compromise more than just your WoW account.

As a database administrator I can think of a few other ways they could have potentially identified users uniquely, but not having access to their tables I can only make assumptions. Theoretically, it could be done by another unique value, but then you would be known by that value rather than by your name. I’ll take people calling me Jason Griffith over being called “Player Number 123546815” any day of the week, thank you. I’m not a flipping serial number.

Problem: Identity Theft
This one ties right back in to the real names issue that we’ve already discussed, so take a look up there for some of the other details. Let me be the first to tell you though, it takes more than just a name to steal someone’s identity. If you give out more information than just your name then you could potentially run the risk of having your identity stolen, but it’s not going to happen from your name alone or even your name and your email address.

If you put into place the other forms of security that I mentioned above (good passwords, virus protection, etc), then you’re already way ahead of game on identity theft. I’m not saying it isn’t possible and that it will never happen, but I am saying your chances of being the victim of IDT from Real ID are slim and that you can take precautions to make them even more so.

Solution: Use strong passwords, use virus protection software, don’t use all of the features of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Just because the site gives you a place to put your city and state doesn’t mean you have to fill them in. If you’re not comfortable with people knowing certain things about you, then don’t put them out on the internet or people can potentially find them if they’re really willing to put in the time and effort required to search for all of that. But remember, a name by itself is nothing more than a name, a couple of words matched together; without any further information there is nothing that ties that name to you as a person.


Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Patch Notes, Share Your Opinion


Tags: , ,

12 responses to “Some Problems with Real ID

  1. Justin

    June 24, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    I really stand strong with the ‘No Invisibility Mode’ issue for when you just want to relax and play world of warcraft ‘ solo ‘ or login and stalk the auction house for a little before logging out and so on.

    once again a good read.

    Ejeet Networks

    • Psynister

      June 24, 2010 at 7:36 PM

      It’s perfectly understandable. As I said, my wife’s a huge fan of doing it. I fully support Blizzard adding that feature and would encourage them to do so. On a personal level, I really couldn’t care less either way, but knowing people that want it and why has me support it despite my personal feelings about it.

      I think the system will work just fine without it, but I’d take it as a welcome addition even if I’ll never actually use it myself.

  2. Coda

    June 24, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    Real names aren’t a unique identifier. There are who-knows-how-many “John Smith”s and “Mary Jones”es out there. Therefore THAT point, at least, is moot. IDs *are* unique already. You just need a way to guarantee that the ID is associated with the person you think it’s associated with.

  3. Chawa

    June 25, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    I would like Blizzard to steal the 3rd paragraph of your “Psynister Psychology”, alter it slightly to be more general and then add it to their Terms of Service. But that’s slight off topic! ;)

    You’re absolutely right about nicknames. If I was forced to choose, I’d much rather be known by my real name of Ivana Tinkle rather then Chawa2010. (Please forgive me for going there!)

    Good write up on a topic that has a variety of different viewpoints and concerns!

  4. Saga

    June 25, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    I don’t have any “horrible” objections to RealID, I just won’t be using it because it doesn’t provide me with anything that I feel that I need.

    I already use Steam – which allows me to chat with friends while they or I (or both) are in-game. On Steam I only really have very few people since that means I can “hide” when I want to. When I feel extra chatty I logon to MSN – where I allow any friend onto my friends list :P

    I just don’t see myself ever using a chat service where anyone added can always see which character and server I’m on. I’m an Officer in my guild, and sometimes I just don’t want to be bothered with guild matters – I just want to play my alt and be left alone :)

    Also I can see the issues outlined in regards to accepting some people and others not. Rather than making that distinction and having to explain it – I rather opt out of using Real ID at all.

    At the same time I don’t argue with the people that DO want to use it. It’s in everyone’s right after all – and some people are very social and chatty and probably have no problem with people seeing them all the time :)

  5. AndruX

    June 26, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    My name is very common and given my residence history, it’s nearly impossible to track me down by it, even by my friends that know where I currently live.

    My girlfriend, on the other hand, has what would appear to be a completely unique name. I typed it into (which is pretty much a phone book on crack) and it pops up with her address, old phone number (her current number is unlisted), her family’s names, a 360 degree view of her house and the neighborhood, etc. There are no other hits for her name besides her on that site.

    Literally, just from knowing her name, someone could cause all kinds of harm to her personally, or her family. This is why the Friend of Friend feature is horrific in my opinion. She is of course being careful with who she gives her realID to, but it’s hard to be able to trust those people and everyone they know.

    Realistically, chances are slim that bad things will happen out of this, but it only takes one instance of something happening to her before I have to turn into a bounty hunter…

  6. Merckx

    June 30, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    You seem to forget this real ID let you trust your own friends..but it doesnt let u NOT trust your friends friends…right now a guildie of mine, which I was gonna add anyways…found me on another guildies friends list..googled my name..and told me the color of my fucking house =p cuz in some countries names are tied to phone books with numbers and adresses which are perfectly fine for my country..but not the entire friends list of my friends.. ;D

    that is an issuse I dislike with this feature…else I love it

    • Psynister

      July 1, 2010 at 8:56 AM

      That information is available to the whole world. If you don’t want your name in the phone book, then call the phone company and have your name removed from it. This isn’t a RealID problem, it’s a real world problem.

      If a guildie found the color of your house, then he had more information than just your name, or you’re the only person listed in any phone books with your name.

      Take that information though and consider what it actually means. So a guy in Canada knows that I live in a white house in Texas and he knows my address. What’s that guy going to do about it? Send me a post card calling me a noob? What about someone you see at work, a customer that sees your name tag or a person that gets an email message from you at work with your full name. That person lives in your area and they have your name. So when they Google you they don’t have to dig through everyone with your name on the list, they just have to find the one in that town or one near it. The threat from that person is much more realistic, and it’s much easier for them to do something to you.

      Someone knowing where you live, or the color of house you have, or knowing that you have a pool in your backyard because of satellite photos means nothing unless they have the desire or intent to harm or harass you.

      • Yarong

        July 8, 2010 at 7:11 AM

        The issue isn’t that the information is uniquely available. Any homeowner is likely on publicly searchable tax records, for example.

        The issue is that it lowers the barriers for harassment or worse.

        Some people like publishing professionals (scientists, academics) simply cannot have their names associated with WoW. Period. Law enforcement and military? Anyone with a security clearance? Nope. Women? Nope. How many crazies does it take to change a woman’s life? One. Why take such an unnecessary risk?

        What about someone in the LGBT community? WoW has notoriously racist posters in /trade, but the griefing put on openly gay, bi or transgender is just horrible. I can understand why some of the LGBT community wants to simply lose themselves in the game where none of those real life issues are a problem. I don’t like hearing a gay friend saying he got another death threat that he took seriously, submitted a ticket and nothing happened. I’d hate for another Matthew Shepherd incident to happen because someone was outed, folks got bent about raiding with a gay player and did something really, really wrong.

        The counter-strike guy in France who got stabbed, his attacker took six months to track him down. Now, irate PvPers or those who go ape doodoo over loot in raids can grief someone IRL with no consequence, especially if that person’s in another country. GM kicked you and he’s Canadian? He’ll have a fun time getting the law on you in the US unless you cross a pretty deep line. Otherwise, there’s not much to be done. International cyber-stalking laws are pretty thin and I don’t believe at this time they cover extradition for all, but the worst cases which actually amount to openly committing a felony. Short of that?

        I initially liked the feature for its convenience. I did NOT like that without parental controls added, anyone with the coding expertise could write a mouseover addon showing everyone’s real name (that addon has already been created, btw).

        So, it’s NOT just friends or friends of friends. The system will give up your name to anyone if they know how to code the query. One wonders if they’ll be able to poll like with gearscore and just get the Real IDs in broader ways.

        It doesn’t take a ton of these incidents to realize this is wrong. We already know they happened and that was when folks had to take the time to find the other person without the huge head start of a first and last name.

        I’m willing to bet that 90+% of those not fretting over the changes are white males between the ages of 18-40. I’m mixed. I get it. Nothing bad will likely happen to me so nothing bad is likely to happen, period. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case for everyone.

        Community can’t be community when it’s forced upon everyone. I used to theorycraft on Ele shaman issues. I surely don’t want to share my name with everyone who can google Ele shaman.

        I appreciated the write up and the clarification and read both, thoroughly.

  7. notebook parca

    July 6, 2010 at 1:39 AM

    very nice article my friend !

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