The lights are on
Update: We continued to follow up on this story after publishing "Adam's" account. After the comments pointing to the dates of other incidents, Adam and his mother reached out to let me know they had determined which of the family's frequent guests was at fault.
We spoke with the teenager by phone. For more, you can read that interview here.
We recently covered a story of an 11-year-old child named Henry, whose Destiny characters were deleted via the PlayStation 4’s Share Play feature. In the course of investigating that story, I reached out to both parties, including the aggressor.
At the time, I didn’t receive a response via PlayStation Network from the person who owns the “KirmitTHEfrog” account. Privacy settings didn’t allow me to send a friend request, and a follow-up message was also prohibited.
Today, I received an email from a woman claiming to be the mother of the man who owns the account. What followed was a complex tale involving personal injury and loss. I have since been able to speak with the owner of the account, who I will call “Adam” to protect his identity (as you might imagine, there have been a number of threats sent via PSN) and have received confirmation that he owns the “KirmitTHEfrog” account and verified details of the story that give us confidence to share it with you.
On November 1, 2014, Adam, was in a head-on collision with another car. The 23-year-old has been convalescing at home for much of the time since.
Adam’s mother tells me that their home sees a lot of traffic with friends, their children, and friends of those children passing through. According to Adam and his mother, Adam was unaware of what was happening on his PlayStation account.
“At the beginning of November, [“Adam”] was hit by another driver head-on; the next couple of months he spent time recouping and finally returning to work where he spends a great deal of time to make up for lost wages and bills that piled up,” his mother told me via e-mail. “Gaming was not on his mind. We were not aware as people stopped by to visit him to see how he was doing that anyone was, as he says, ‘messing with his gaming account.’ His playstation was sitting there, kids played games, others watched movies; no one assumed one of them was ‘having a good time’ at my son’s expense. And perhaps no one would have known if it did not horribly go viral.”
We were able to see a copy of the police report from the accident to verify the details. “I am a lucky guy to be alive,” Adam told me. “I don't look at life quite the same anymore. So I guess I was too trusting when people came over to hang out. I was sleeping a lot so I would not notice.”
Adam’s account has since been put under lock and key, so to speak. As I mentioned, he isn’t accepting messages or friend requests. There have been hundreds of attacks levied via PlayStation Network, and according to Adam’s mother, Sony is helping to deal with those deemed harassing and threatening.
“Some posts said they wanted me dead or my family dead,” Adam told me. “Someone said they wanted me to get cancer or someone in my family. You know what that does to you? I almost just died, and I still cry a lot because my sister died because of cancer not too long ago. This is cruel, and I want it all to stop so when I feel I want to have time to unwind I could play online. Now, I have more crap to worry about, and I hate this stress.” Adam's mother provided some additional information about his sister and her struggle with cancer. She passed away in 2011.
Unfortunately, Adam doesn’t know which of the people using his PlayStation 4 deleted Henry’s data. “I wish I knew who it was,” he says. “I don’t. I was so sleepy half the time from pain medication. Why would someone do that? I guess you have to be pretty stupid or just don't give a damn about people to do that. Glad I don’t know who it is. I am so mad and stressed for what he did to me by using my account.”
Adam tells me that he has a little brother and he wouldn’t want to see him hurt like Henry was. “I feel bad for that little kid,” he says. “If my little brother tried to play my game, I would not let him. Plus, if he tried to cheat on anything I would smack him on the side of his head. People on games cheat, but [it’s] not good to teach or let little kids do that, they don’t get it yet.”
Just as we posted Henry’s video to warn about the possible dangers of trusting the wrong people with Share Play, we share Adam’s account as a cautionary tale. Protect your online identity as you would any other piece of personal data.
And for those that would use this story to ridicule an 11-year-old, attack his parents for some assumed inadequacy, or even threaten violence against the perceived aggressor, please reconsider. We could all do with being a little kinder to one another.