I’m sure you’ve seen, or will see, the Real ID FAQ – here it is on wow.com. I’m sorry to say that, beyond the practical problems of being unable to hide on an alt or the risk of hacking, this feature is dangerous in a very real-life way.
I don’t usually write about stuff that everyone else is going to write about, or has written about – because it’s redundant. In this case it is a serious safety concern, and the more times people hear about it, the better.
Here’s where the red flags go up.
If you are using Real ID, your mutual Real ID friends, as well as their Real ID friends, will be able to see your first and last name (the name registered to the Battle.net account). You will also be able to see the first and last name of your Real ID friends and their Real ID friends.
No. Dear readers, don’t do this.
(1) People who do not read the fine print may not realize that their real name will be exposed if they give out an e-mail address – even an e-mail address that may not otherwise be associated in any way with a real name in the e-mail account information. While it would normally be “safe” to use this e-mail to communicate with strangers (we do it on blogs all the time) it would not be “safe” once associated with the battle.net account.
(2) Even if you are completely comfortable with the person knowing your real name, their friends now know your name too. You would have to be constantly vigilant of that person’s friends list, making sure that there is nobody on that list that you don’t want knowing your real name.
Sure, you like your guildmates, and maybe you’d want to talk to them across server or faction lines. It seems innocent enough at first.
How many times have you heard of a guildmate who has gone too far and started harassing another guildie? How many women do you know that had to change guilds, names, or servers to get away from this? Now imagine if the persistent guildie knew her first and last name. All it would take is both of them becoming Real ID friends with the GM for that information to be passed along. They wouldn’t even have to be friends with each other.
I don’t want to single out women. Men, you still have just as much to fear from this feature. Anyone of any gender can be a harasser or harassed.
Children play this game. I feel throw-up sick thinking of someone in-game being able to find out the name of a child who plays. Kids want to chat. They live in a facebook culture. They may not think twice about handing out their e-mail address (an address that may not even have their real name attached to it) to someone they talk to every day. They think they’re being careful in only giving out a de-identified e-mail address, only to discover later that people, and people whom they didn’t even “friend”, now know their real name! Children don’t read the fine print, they don’t know what the ramifications are of handing out an e-mail address.
I’m worried about this. A lot. Please, please, read all the fine print. Maybe things will change. Maybe they will not. Those of you with children, be extra vigilant.