Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

“Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?”

Ever since Edward Snowden (bless him) blew the proverbial whistle, privacy concerns has been proven to be even more serious than anyone dared to believe. And I’d like to make a small case for one of the problems I see in Wow.

I remember reading a forum post back in 2012 about the activity feed on the WoW Armory.

activity feed wow

The WoW Armory logs the activity of every character above level 10, who has also been active within the last 6 months. It logs the date of the last 50 entries.This can be viewed by anyone online, and you can not opt out of it.

It was a player asking for the ability to simply opt out of having the activity feed public:

“Am I the only person who think it’s uncomfortable to have everything you do, and when you do it broadcasted to the world?

Maybe I don’t want family/partner/boss/co-workers/stalkers/etc to know exactly how much I play or when I play for a number of reasons.

I want privacy features, I want the choice to disable the activity feed.” (link)

Is this really a lot to ask?

– Apparently for some! Because people in the thread were completely hung up on the suspicion that this guy might be playing WoW when he should be working. The answer to that is – that’s why we need privacy to begin with – because it’s none of your damn business what he does in WoW or when he do it. We don’t even need to have the discussion about why he wants it to be private in the first place – privacy is a human right!

Besides, to make a point, I have played WoW when ill – as in – legitimately ill. I did some pet battles, some farming, just something to take my mind off of the blazing flu I had going.

But you can also imagine how, under certain conditions, that could have been construed as me not being ill enough, if this information was in the hands of the wrong people.

You also see this argument about privacy often:

Basically, you are responsible for your own privacy. Which means you’d have to censor yourself – don’t play WoW when ill lest someone find out and use it against you.


Great! That will make the internet a fun, free and democratic place to hang out!
– Artist Inti Orozco

Another consequence of this line of thinking, would be the question author Julia Angwin asks: “Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?

“As more privacy-protecting services pop up, we need to consider two important questions: Can we ensure that those who can afford to buy privacy services are not being deceived? And even more important, do we want privacy to be something that only those with disposable money and time can afford?”

She spent $2,200 last year on privacy protection measures, some of which weren’t able to live up to their promises. Besides, is it fair that one has to be a tech-expert to work around this stuff? I feel bad for my ol’ man then.

I see my friends on Facebook using nick names and falsifying their personal information, in order to diffuse their online tracks. My own strategy has been to just leave as much blank as possible. This means Facebook constantly asks me where I grew up, where I went to school (all the way back to kindergarden, Facebook wants everything!) and what movies and music I like. I sometimes enjoy watching Facebook squirm in the absence of my data, but then it also annoys me – “quit asking me private stuff, Zuckerberg, I don’t wanna date you!”

Edward Snowden, though!

8 comments on ““Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?”

  1. Neri
    March 7, 2014

    Though my work I have seen just how clueless people are when it comes to online safety and security. Hell, I see it whenever I open my Facebook home page and I have relatives and friends sharing bogus “Win a $1000 voucher by sharing this post!” from legit brands, even though the page itself only has 50 likes.

    Still, even with this naivety almost everywhere, I don’t think it should necessarily be the job of Blizzard to stop trivial information like that getting out. The people who are actually going to get caught in a, “A-HA! You weren’t sick because you got some loot in a dungeon on Thursday!” sting from a tech savvy boss are probably also the ones who have their Facebook settings set to public.

    The clever ones just wouldn’t let their boss know their character name ;)

    • Ironyca
      March 7, 2014

      It’s not that Blizzard should “stop information getting out”, this doesn’t happen passively. They are actively doing this. The way you chose to phrase that, is interesting ;)

      Trivial information to you, may not be trivial to someone else, so why is it an issue that someone wants to protect their most trivial of information, it’s still their right and should be in their control regardless.

      Of course one could just keep people from knowing one’s character name, but see, now we’re back to self-censorship. One has to be acutely aware of every company’s privacy methods to navigate it in daily life, because the option to say “none of your business” is not always there.

      Furthermore, going with the argument that some information is indeed trivial, the more trivial information you have on someone, the more it gets accumulated online, the less trivial it gets and the bigger the picture gets.

      I admit, this is not the big fish in the ocean amongst privacy issues, but since most people reading this blog are WoW players, it’s relevant to bring it up as an example, that they can relate to.

      I also believe that the little issues, like the WoW activity log, helps to create an environment of “whatever” amongst people, which further our acceptance of the even bigger privacy breaches.

      • Neri
        March 8, 2014

        For some background, my husband just finished up working for Defence Intelligence, which included a stint at Pine Gap (I believe old matey Snowden mentioned that place in a few of his leaks). I mention this because, as you can probably imagine, privacy was a REALLY BIG DEAL; not only did he have monitor what he did and didn’t put out there on the internet because, as you say, small things add up to the bigger picture, but he also had to be aware of the signs of ‘grooming’ — someone using that information in order to gain his trust and eventually manipulate sensitive information out of him.

        Then there was also that pesky thing of if he accidentally said something that was classified and got caught out, hello seven years jail for treason!

        I guess that’s why I use the word trivial. Obviously, we take our privacy VERY seriously. Never once did we think, “Well, guess it’s time to quit playing WoW because some crafty person might find our armory page and figure out that we really like to PvP at 2am and use that information jeapordise the safety of our country”.

        I’m being a little melodramatic now, I guess, but I really do feel that self-censorship combined with education and awareness is the best method of action for anyone who is concerned about privacy. As I mentioned in my first comment, websites and servers are hacked and broken into all the time, even when the companies do their absolute best to prevent that from happening.

        Your frog in a water analogy regarding the armory is a good one, I will admit that! However, I still stand by my original point that it’s trivial information.

        I think the bigger issue here is that some players have important people in their lives’ that disapprove of their hobby :P

        • Ironyca
          March 10, 2014

          Of course self-censorship combined with education and awareness is the best method of action, I agree, it’s hard not to ;) But my article isn’t a “here’s how you best navigate privacy issues online”, its purpose is primarily for raising awareness of the current status quo and why I think there are problems.

          Servers being hacked as an argument is confusing me. That’s illegal anyways. It’s not black or white (i.e. total transparency and totalitarianism because there are internet criminals).

          Sadly, yes, there are definitely people whose friends, family or acquaintances do not approve. But since it’s none of their business what/when a grown up autonomous adult does legally online, I believe in giving this person the essential rights to control the (trivial even) information about themselves to begin with.

          I can understand your attention to the big issues, national security etc, but this article is more focused on the little everyday issues normal people run into. I wrote it because I believe people are prone to focus of the big issues when talking online privacy, and simply forget that they probably run into it themselves every single day. Case in point: someone who wants the option to hide their activity log. And the way other commenters react to it, I think, shows that awareness of online privacy and its implications are way too low/misguided.

          • Neri
            March 12, 2014

            I think at the end of the day, the idea that Blizzard should be responsible for helping us hide things from the people we love just doesn’t sit right with me. However, I also have incredibly strong opinions about respecting a fully grown adult’s decision to pursue a hobby, so that could quite possibly be colouring my opinion of this subject :P

            My point about servers was more that, as far as privacy is concerned, criminals hacking servers and stealing information such as credit card details and physical addresses (You did mention stalkers!) is FAR more dangerous than an activity feed, but as you have said, I have veered way off course in relation to your post.

            Thanks for the interesting debate!

            • Ironyca
              March 15, 2014

              Sorry for the late reply, I have had some health complications lately.
              I just wanted to thank you for the debate as well! Challenged my thinking :)

  2. tomeoftheancient
    March 7, 2014

    The activity feed kind of creeped me out at first but there’s no chance of anyone I know seeing it other than WoW players. Now FB I won’t even join, my account is in my dog’s name and even he won’t divulge any personal info. He won’t even own up on where he went to school, lol.

    • Ironyca
      March 8, 2014

      I bet he’s finding it hard to resist all those delicious dog food ads though! Pets – always so munchy!

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