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Blizzard Adds Timestamps To WoW Armory 318

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-your-boss-doesn't-know-your-character-name dept.
Kharny writes "In a move that could cause serious privacy problems for players of World of Warcraft, Blizzard has added timestamps and an RSS feed to the game's online armory site. This new feature will mean that anyone can follow 'real-time' developments in a World of Warcraft character, which display the exact time and date, so that others can see that person's playing habits. Many players have already complained about the fact that there is no opt-out setting, and this opens very big possibilities for online stalking."
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Blizzard Adds Timestamps To WoW Armory

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  • Already possible (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:25AM (#30817578) Journal

    This just makes it a little bit easier. One could easily write a LUA script that /who's the player in-game between some intervals and save the info. Or the more geeky ones could write a program that uses WoW's protocol and logins to do the same (and relogins if disconnected).

    So it's not like it wouldn't already be possible to gather those playing habits.

    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:28AM (#30817838)
      There are a lot of things that are "already possible", that are made "easier". It is known as the difficulty of a problem. I don't want to build a terrorism strawman so here is another analogy: It is already possible to perform voting fraud without electronic voting machines. All you need to do is gather your closest 100,000 conspirators and rig the counting process. Introducing a centralized software that you conveniently and mostly undetectably can modify just makes it easier.

      The fact is, making some things easier make things more probable and skews "cost - benefit" comparisons towards actually doing the thing. The example you use would require a WoW account and would be limited to a few people tops. The new changes can easily allow monitoring of tens of thousands of accounts from a single ip, with a few lines of Perl.
      • by Jahava (946858)
        You raise a good point with your analogy, but it's not quite so apt. While you are correct in analyzing this as a cost-benefit ratio, you make the mistake of ignoring the fact that third-parties already have invested most or all of the cost, and have made their services available to anyone for free! The current state of things is such that:
        • There are [wowprogress.com] already [avatarsunited.com] free [armory-light.com] services [warcraftrealms.com] that do refreshing and time-tracking.
        • There are plenty of scripts [warcraftrealms.com] available that already do that.
        • Writing a LUA [lua.org] script is extremely simple
    • So it's not like it wouldn't already be possible to gather those playing habits.

      Yeah, but you leave a strange stalker trace if you're doing that. Why would you be /who'ing someone 48 times per day at 30 min intervals, for several days? If it goes to court, log files could help the victim.

      Visiting that armory page a couple times per day for a few days seems like completely normal behaviour. This is dangerous not because it encourages stalking - but because if there is a stalker incident, it doesn't provide any markers to indicate abnormal behaviour. Plus, it's convenient, and available

      • /who'ing someone 48 times per day at 30 min intervals, for several days would probably not get you in trouble as long as you also /who'd a few hundred other people at the same time and came up with a decent excuse, perhaps something like collecting statistics on the playing habits of a random sample of players or something.

    • by Lazy Jones (8403)

      One could easily write a LUA script that /who's the player in-game between some intervals and save the info.

      You need to have an account and be logged on to the same server as the person whose habits you are tracking, big difference.

    • This just makes it a little bit easier. One could easily write a LUA script that /who's the player in-game between some intervals and save the info. Or the more geeky ones could write a program that uses WoW's protocol and logins to do the same (and relogins if disconnected).

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't the user you're stalking ignore/ban you, and stop you from /who-ing them?

  • by assemblerex (1275164) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:27AM (#30817586)
    but instead I see you got new epic shoulders. gratz.
  • by MrRTFM (740877) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:30AM (#30817592) Journal
    unlike most other online communities there is no way to show your status as 'Offline' (which makes it very annoying sometimes) In fact all this data is obtainable anyway - just makes it a bit easier for mom to see that johnny got that epic sword last night at 10:30PM - THAT'S PAST YOUR BEDTIME JOHNNY!!!!
    • For anyone under 16-18, this would be GOOD.

      Ok, the kids will hate Blizzard for it... but it might actually decrease the amount of time spent online, and improve school results.

      Working people or anyone who keeps work and gaming separated need not fear. Your boss doesn't know your WoW character, does he?

      However, it is surprising that a company would try to motivate players to play less...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bieeanda (961632)
        It's not surprising at all, actually. MMO subscriptions are per-month, not strictly metered use like they were in the days of Compuserve. The less you actually play, the better it is for the company-- you're drawing fewer resources, and extending the time it would take you to reach whatever milestone you set for quitting.
  • by Poobar (1558627) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:32AM (#30817598)

    Situation: I am being "cyber-stalked".

    Solution: Log off WOW.

    Solution 2 (If you really need your MMORPG fix): Switch to a different character.

    Why would a person knowing where you are in a fictional landscape ever be a problem anyway? Surely there's some kind of ignore button in WOW (correct me if I'm wrong, I only played the free trial before getting bored), so even if they knew where you were, they could... what?

    • by RobVB (1566105) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:50AM (#30817668)

      they could... what?

      Ground you for playing past your bedtime.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Or fire you for playing on work machines on work time. Or use it in the divorce suit because you're neglecting your kids. The possibilities are endless: I wouldn't consider all of them improper, but it does create some risks.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:51AM (#30817920)

          then... err. do your job? care for your kids?

          • by thesandtiger (819476) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @09:52AM (#30818548)

            As someone who has seen a number of nasty divorces go down, let me explain something to you:

            Has 1 drink with dinner => massive alcoholic in divorce speak
            Spanked a child for running into the street => beats the children
            Hugs a child => probably molesting the children
            Has had lunch with co-worker of the opposite sex => has had a torrid affair
            Has had lunch with co-worker of the same sex => almost certainly having a homosexual affair

            So...

            Spent 3 hours over a weekend late at night raiding => neglects children, wasn't ever there for us, probably having an affair with someone online

            I agree, people probably shouldn't be playing or logging in from work unless their workplace allows it during breaks, but the point is that anyone who has an agenda and an axe to grind and would use this tool to support it will certainly also be more than happy to spin things in the worst possible way. Divorce lawyers are fucking NASTY creatures, and people going through a hostile divorce can be psychotic.

    • by Xest (935314)

      Really, let's face it, most people who have a problem with this are people who play when they should be working or at school or something and are concerned their employer/parent will now be able to see this and hold it up as evidence against them in disciplinary action.

      As you say, there's really little value there for a stalker. A stalker is more likely to be watching your house with binoculars to see when you leave the house and what you do at what times, rather than giving a shit about what time you got t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Amorymeltzer (1213818)

        most people who have a problem with this are people who play when they should be working or at school or something and are concerned their employer/parent will now be able to see this and hold it up as evidence against them in disciplinary action.

        Maybe, but that's really the same argument as we see for wiretaps or unwarranted searches or cameras up the wazoo - "You only have something to lose if you're doing something illegal." As has been said before around here, decreased privacy hurts everyone, not just those doing things they shouldn't. Just because so-called stalkers won't find anything doesn't mean they should be able to look.

    • by Obyron (615547)
      Situation: I am being stalked.

      Solution: Don't go outside.

      Solution 2: Kill yourself.

      Do you see the flaw in your reasoning? These people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and you should not place the blame for stalking on the victims.
    • One of the major problems is that you can be harassed by people full time because of the friends list. The issue is that you cannot block people from putting you on that list or hiding from them by using the /ignore feature. While I understand that "loot ninjas" want to hide they can't on the server from their name being trashed.

      Throw in that paid names changes don't remove you from friends list and it just gets more of a pain to hide from in game bullies. I fully expect blizzard one day to really screw

  • It seems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goldaryn (834427) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:32AM (#30817600) Homepage
    I think there will be two SHOCKING REVELATIONS!

    1) Most people play waaay more WoW than they admit
    2) There's a lot of botting going on

    There, you're shocked now. aren't you! Hello?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:32AM (#30817602)

    Boss: so mr anderson, it seems like you have been livig 2 lives. 1 as the sick employe that stayed at home, and the 2nd as barabas the gnome slayer...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ichigo 2.0 (900288)
      What else would a sick person do at home other than play games and watch television? It's not like you can sleep 24/7...
  • by mykos (1627575) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:34AM (#30817614)

    I do believe that stalking a home-bound loser would make the stalker collapse into an infinitely dense (and sad) singularity of loserdom.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:42AM (#30817634) Homepage
      +1 Insightful, with some [twitter.com] exceptions [twitter.com].
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:22AM (#30817814)

      I understand that that's the popular perception of WoW players... but you do realize it's about as accurate, and kind, as 'lazy niggers', right? That my guild (of 100ish people) has only 3 or 4 players who kinda fit the geeky shut-in mold, and the rest are normal men and women leading ordinary lives? My mother plays WoW, and she's nearly 60. I can list off 10 couples right off the top of my head in our guild. Some players are casual, some are hardcore raiders. It's all a matter of what percentage of someone's leisure time they choose to spend playing WoW.

      Sitting on a couch watching TV is a less worthy pursuit, in my mind, than killing undead minions in WoW. But the stigma of watching TV is notably less.

  • by Ailure (853833) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:44AM (#30817644) Homepage

    Steam shows how much you have played a certain game in total: http://steamcommunity.com/id/robinwalker/ [steamcommunity.com] and you can view the inventories of TF2 players ( http://www.tf2items.com/ [tf2items.com] ).

    However unlike WoW, you can opt out as player info can't be obtained from private player profiles. When someone asked Valve why you can't grab "information" from a player who marked their profile as private, they said it was a recommendation from their lawyers. Interesting...

    • by Splab (574204)

      Actually Steam is opt-in - also when they started doing the public tracking I wrote them a strongly worded letter (at that point they wouldn't allow you to opt out again) where I pointed out that their tracking mechanism is very much against the law to not be opt-outable in Denmark (where steam does business), shortly after they changed their practice and you can no longer find my profile on steam.

  • beyond stupid. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:46AM (#30817652) Homepage Journal

    are these people aware that it takes ages to upgrade even a tiny piece of your gear, if you already have reached a certain item level ?

    unless you go changing your items for show or for leisure like a monkey, and just leave your top tier items where they are, noone will be able to make out anything about your 'habits'.

    and if you are a raider who also does rp or does pvp and you routinely change armor sets, all they will be doing is knowing at what hour you raid. but then again after all there are a lot of guildies knowing that, and you people probably arrange those times on a forum which is probably open to public anyway.

    then whats the ruckus ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only real things someone might be able to know, (especially with a class like a druid that requires up to eight [1] different sets of gear), is that someone might be PvP-ing, or running dungeons/raids when they do an armor swap. Some people who don't PvP can get away with a single set of gear if their class is a DPS only class (hunter, mage).

      Knowing someone is in PvP or PvE gear, especially on a PvP server may mean something though, especially if griefing is involved. For example, if someone is in the

  • Asked for comment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:54AM (#30817690) Homepage

    Asked for comment, the involved parties responded "Wait, you thought that information was private before?"

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:55AM (#30817700)

    I mean this could work for stalking their character, but there is no tie between a character and the person behind it unless you choose to make one. This really doesn't change anything. If you reveal your name, address, etc to someone then sure they can use it to stalk you. However your WoW character doesn't reveal that. Just don't go telling random people on WoW who you are and there isn't a problem.

    • by Endo13 (1000782)

      Even if someone does use this to stalk your character, how will that even matter? What are they going to do, send illicit chat messages? Try to follow your character around in-game? Good luck with that.

      And as for the tie from character to real-life person, if that tie exists just change your character's name. Also, the most anyone could glean from such a tie is what time of day you're normally on your PC. There's no other way a stalker could possibly get that info, right?

      As usual, a bunch of FUD.

  • by gaelfx (1111115) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:03AM (#30817726)
    Timestamps on Slashdot comments? /stalk function on every profile page? I don't think I could handle slashdot stalking, later folks
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Based on your comment history that slashdot easily gives us, I can roughly assume that you normally check slashdot from 10PM-2AM.

  • There are jerks everywhere, they may not even realize they are jerks. Let them grow up a bit more. Not counting *physical* stalking which in its own rights deserves some pretty thorough and effective laws, virtual stalking while emotionally distressing is not of the same level of danger. See my signature, I believe that people finding me by interest is more important than privacy. Unfortunately this means you get a few iffies. To combat that, where people are just jerks and not a physical danger, then
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrXym (126579)
      People have killed themselves over virtual stalking / cyber bullying. At the very least WOW should allow opt-out and preferably the service should be opt-in and restricted to over 18s. It's simply irresponsible to lay bare people's online habits without giving them the choice not to disclose information that they may have reason to wish to hide.
      • by headkase (533448)
        You and drinkypoo are both absolutely correct: I've chosen my settings, Activision/Blizzard should extend the same courtesy to their customers.
      • Those people more than likely had deep-seated psychological problems to do with self esteem and social interaction deficiencies far before they played WoW, or any other MMO. Instead of seeking help resolving the issues, they immersed themselves in a false world of small and fast accomplishment with a greatly inflated sense of achievement.

        Anyway, it's not like they're linking it to a real life identity. You couldn't pick out my WoW character from my Slashdot ID, or my real name. Nor could you reverse it to
        • by DrXym (126579)
          Those people more than likely had deep-seated psychological problems to do with self esteem and social interaction deficiencies far before they played WoW, or any other MMO. Instead of seeking help resolving the issues, they immersed themselves in a false world of small and fast accomplishment with a greatly inflated sense of achievement.

          And as such it's okay for Blizzard to create a feature that allows them to be cyberstalked and harassed?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      See my signature, I believe that people finding me by interest is more important than privacy.

      I believe the same, though I do not believe that either of us has the right to decide this for others. Blizzard has the right to publish this data, but is it right? I feel strongly that not providing opt-out is wrong, at least.

      • by headkase (533448)
        You and DrXym are both absolutely correct: I've chosen my settings, Activision/Blizzard should extend the same courtesy to their customers.
  • I see (Score:4, Funny)

    by PePe242 (1690706) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:38AM (#30817878)
    You haven't changed your epic underwear for 3 days!
  • Blizzard, since the launch of the Armory, has a pretty iffy track-record when it comes to revealing data. They seem to assume that everyone is happy to have the information shared, but this is a pretty big assumption. Their revealing gold-related statistics causing a bit of a storm. Although it was never possible to determine how much gold someone would have, the statistics made it possible to get a rough idea of how rich someone was likely to be.

    The Armory is a great tool, but they really do need to allow

  • by craznar (710808) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:57AM (#30817962) Homepage
    "In a move that could cause mild to almost no privacy problems for users of Slashdot, Cowboy Neal has added timestamps and an RSS feed to the site's online forum site. This new feature will mean that anyone can follow 'real-time' posts for a Slashdot user, which display the exact time and date, so that others can see that person's posting habits. Absolutely no users have complained about the fact that there is no opt-out setting, and this opens very big possibilities for online stalking."
  • Notes: Subject is playing WoW. Of course he's playing WoW. He's been playing WoW since I started this fucking log. What the hell is the point of stalking someone who never leaves their computer except to pee and/or restock their Cheetos supply? It's like *I'm* the pathetic wastrel here. Oh god. Have I become a pathetic wastrel? Stalker's log out!
  • On-line stalking usually means the crime of tracking down a users in physically reality. In WoW in will mean (especially on PvP servers), high level players, griefers and those we grudges, following round low level players, and killing them repeatly as our newbies try to build up there equipment, and complete PvE missions.

    ---

    MUD Games [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • Sign out of the bloody game for good: http://www.wowdetox.com/ [wowdetox.com]

    I did just over 3 years ago and don't regret it.

  • Oops, big time mistake on blizzards part, I don't need anyone knowing my game times whether real time or not, I allow WoW to know, but not anybody (especially ones without an account that want to poke fun at you). The problem here is that when someone
    looks you up, they need to know who you are toon wise, and what all your alts are as well as the server(s) you are on.

    You can name change and server change to avoid problems...but to my knowledge, someone who knows how the game is played has unlimited access to

  • Real Reason (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495)

    Since this went live I have gotten over 700 requests from employers wanting to contract me to compare those time stamps to select employees known to play WoW to ensure that they are not playing during work hours.

    I wrote a perl script years ago that scans and dumps Lotus Notes email containing select keywords and back then it was targeted towards Everquest players but I'm sure they have since updated it for other games. It's trivial to correlate email to character info if you, for instance, raid with coworke

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ok, I call B.S. Nice troll, but I don't believe in the few days since this came out that you've gotten _any_ requests from employers. Even if said employers were interested, and all knew that you could hypothetically offer this service, there's no way for them to match a WoW Armory Profile with a real name. You say, "it's trivial to correlate email to character info if you, for instance, raid with coworkers," but how precisely would go about doing that? I suppose you might get lucky and have some mentio

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jim_v2000 (818799)
        No kidding. Firing someone based on this kind of "evidence" is just asking for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobMcD (601576)

      Keep this in mind: If your employer knows you play WoW and you have EVER played during the work week start checking the job boards my friend. They won't bother to check if you were on vacation, they'll simply red flag you none the less. There is a frenzy brewing and anyone looking for an excuse to show you the door this is a great little tool for that.

      You seem to know very little about the actual management process. Just as an FYI:

      1) Terminations are either at will (meaning no reason is required and unemployment is paid without challenge) or heavily documented. This might contribute a data point to the 'case' made against you, but unless the boss can prove they told you to STOP (followed up by multiple counseling sessions, action plans, and the like), then the RSS feed isn't going to actually count for much.

      2) If you're worried about an at will employe

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