I don’t tend to write a lot about World of Warcraft, only having played it for a month or so in its first year. Still, as the biggest MMO by far, what happens over there matters, as you’ll generally see it happening 6 months later everywhere else. So it is with WoW’s new RealID.
Essentially, your real name (or at any rate, the real name you gave when you signed up years ago, having no idea that it would later be made public), is going to be made public. Your real name is now visible to WoW plugins, and will also be used when you post on the forum. Not having WoW, I’m a little vague on the exact technicalities, but that’s the general gist.
What’s bothering me most though, as is so often the case, is the response from the public. As usual in these situations, you have the people who are concerned, and you have the people who are calling the first group “chicken littles” because the issue does not personally affect them.
There are a lot of reasons why someone might not want to use their real name on the internet, or in WoW. Some of those reasons are good. I’m not going to list them, because anyone with an ounce of empathy for their fellow human beings should be able to think of several. I might also suggest that the simple fact that WoW players were not told that this information would be made public if they signed up at any point before this month ought to be reason enough to make this an outrageous breach of privacy.
An awful lot of folks out there in the blogosphere consider the loss of anonymity to be a good thing. Mostly because they, personally, have no need for it. They hope that it will lead to greater civility on the forums, and perhaps it will. That would be a pleasant side-effect of a diminishing of freedoms, in a similar way to how removing the right to free speech would quieten down all those annoying opposing views, or how ending the right to strike would make the trains more punctual.
What it comes down to is that it is much easier to give up the freedoms other people find important, than the freedoms you find important for yourself. But here’s the thing. If you start giving up every freedom that only a minority of people find useful, very soon you start finding you don’t actually have very many left. Giving a corporation the right to tell everybody what your real name is, when you did not agree to that, is not something, looking at the wider picture, that I think is good for the future of the internet. We are the owners of our personal information; not Blizzard.
I don’t need to preserve my anonymity, but some people do, and for good reasons, and that is all that is required for me to oppose RealID.