I have to admit, I get a very ironic laugh out of this. A couple of weeks ago I had my iPhone replaced by Apple, which invalidated my iPhone based Blizzard Authenticator. In order to restore my account I had to email to Blizzard my driver’s license, as well as a disturbing amount of other supporting documentation. Blizzard doesn’t seem to support gpg/pgp encryption, even though they encrypt the WoW client traffic, so I had to send my informatuion ‘in the clear’. To fix a problem with a ‘virtual world’ account, I had to send an unknown monkey at the other end of an unencrypted email connection enough information to forge my identity… And since I didn’t have to provide Blizzard with any of this information to open the account, they had nothing to verify against; making the entire exercise useless at proving my identity while exposing myself to further risk of identity theft. After all the hassle I had to go through, here is a case of Blizzard bending over backwards to respond to an out-of-jurisdiction subpoena and handing over every bit of information they had on one of their users.
Indeed, World of Warcraft is among the most popular online pastimes today, boasting more than 14 million players in dozens of countries — including Canada. But this is the Internet, and Blizzard is in California. Roberson’s subpoena was nothing more than a politely worded request, considering the limits of his law enforcement jurisdiction and the ambiguity of the online world.
“They don’t have to respond to us, and I was under the assumption that they wouldn’t,” said Roberson. “It had been three or four months since I had sent the subpoena. I just put it in the back of my mind and went on to do other things. Then I finally got a response from them. They sent me a package of information. They were very cooperative. It was nice that they were that willing to provide information.”
Blizzard did more than cooperate. It gave Roberson everything he needed to track down Hightower, including his IP address, his account information and history, his billing address, and even his online screen name and preferred server. From there it was a simple matter to zero in on the suspect’s location.
According to the news article, Mr Roberson was already working with US Marshals, so it would not have been a problem for him to obtain a jurisdictionally valid warrant. Blizzard was well withing their rights to refuse this subpoena and insist on one with binding jurisdiction. Hell, it was their responsibility to their customer for them to demand a valid subpoena! Rather than adhere to the tenants of the structure of our government, Blizzard chose the more expedient route of just handing over everything they had, when the only legal and moral course would have been to demand a legally binding subpoena.
Blizzard has once again thumbed their noses at their customers, and at the entire concept of customer privacy. Blizzard makes big statements claiming to care about and support the gamer community, but their actions indicate quite the opposite.
Blizzard frequently says “Fuck you, gamers!” and today I say “Fuck you, Blizzard!”.
I will never again purchase a Blizzard product. I will not buy Starcraft II, thought to be honest I had decided that when they pulled LAN support from the game. I will never renew my WoW account. (Damn shame, since I just activated my Collector’s Edition Lich King; but such is life.) I will not buy Diablo III. My love of games doesn’t come close to my hatred of companies who sacrifice their customers on the altar of corporate sleaziness.