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Oops: ESRB Exposes E-mail Addresses Of WoW Privacy Respondents [UPDATE]

by Jeff Cork on Jul 13, 2010 at 03:49 AM

Blizzard’s plan to force its forumgoers to use their real names while posting came and went, but it seems as though the fallout is far from over. Before the World of Warcraft and StarCraft II developers aborted the proposed change, community members were upset. Some were so upset that they sent the ESRB e-mails complaining about the change, saying that it violated their privacy. The organization makes a point of advocating for consumer privacy, so it made sense. Unfortunately, an error from the group ended up essentially doing the same thing that people feared from Blizzard.

The ESRB responded to the nearly 1,000 users who complained via a mass e-mail saying that Blizzard had backed down and reversed their proposal. The thing is, the ESRB merely pasted the addresses of people involved into the “To” line of the e-mail, which means that at least some of the people who received the message could see the e-mail addresses of everyone else who received it. In an extra stinging twist, the e-mail concludes with a paragraph that trumpets the organization’s work regarding privacy. D’oh.

Here’s the text of the letter, via Joystiq:

"Thank you for contacting the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) regarding the policy recently announced by Blizzard Entertainment which would have required participants in its official forums to post comments using their real first and last names, and for expressing your concerns regarding potential privacy implications.

“It is our understanding that Blizzard has provided an update announcing that it will not be implementing the above-referenced policy with respect to its forums, and users will not be required to post using their real names. You can read Blizzard's announcement regarding this most recent development at http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25968987278&sid=1&pageNo=1.

“Separately, if you have questions regarding Blizzard's implementation of its Real ID option -- which by our understanding is unrelated to Blizzard's plans for its forums -- and/or the new capabilities this option offers, they will likely be answered by reviewing the information posted at http://www.battle.net/realid/.

”ESRB, through its Privacy Online program, helps companies develop practices to safeguard users' personal information online while still providing a safe and enjoyable video game experience for all. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us with your concerns, and please feel free to direct any future inquiries you may have regarding online privacy to our attention.

“Regards,

“Entertainment Software Rating Board"


If only there was a way to prevent things like this from happening in the future...

[UPDATE]

The ESRB has issued an apology to those affected:

"In our effort to respond quickly to the thousands of gamers who wrote to the ESRB, we inadvertently revealed a limited number of recipients' e-mail addresses in our reply. This was both unfortunate and regrettable, and for that we sincerely apologize to all those who were affected. They deserve to trust that their information will be handled with the same confidentiality, care and respect that we require of companies that display our Privacy Online seal. We take this issue seriously and are doing everything we can to ensure it does not happen again in the future." - Eliot Mizrachi, ESRB