Skip to comments.Is World of Warcraft (Blizzard) Watching You?
Posted on 10/15/2005 7:06:50 PM PDT by holymoly
Cheaters in a massively multiplayer title ruin the game, and companies that develop the software have to guard against them in order to maintain a good user experience for all.
But are they allowed to spy on us? And if so, at what point do we stop taking their word that - Scout's honor - they won't look at or use the wrong information?
Does Blizzard spy on you?
A recent posting on RootKit.com suggests that Blizzard installs software that watches the personal information of people playing their game. The software is designed to hunt for cheat-ware, but reads the title headings of any window open, regardless of its relation to WoW. The poster reports that he, "watched the (program) sniff down the email addresses of people I was communicating with on MSN, (and) the URL of several websites that I had open at the time."
While what it transmits back to Blizzard is in question, this should give any gamer chills. While Blizzard may be a trustworthy company - I doubt you'll find them stealing credit card information from their clients - the frequency of this sort of unauthorized snooping is becoming increasingly common.
A fairly common practice:
In a recent interview, Microsoft's Marketing VP Peter Moore commented that the Xbox 360 might update itself automatically, with the user, "(possibly) not even aware (that it) happens."
Considering that the Silver package of the Xbox Live service is standard in every Xbox 360 connected to the Internet, updates - much like the WoW spyware - are unavoidable.
The key factor is that they do so without permission of the user.
Similar elements exist inside of the Windows operating system. Windows Media Player records what video and music clips you've played on your system; Microsoft has said that they have no plans to use or sell this information, but they don't deny the right to do so. Outcry against this practice has made the problem more prominent, but certainly didn't make it go away.
I personally know of at least one lawyer who is unwilling to use Windows on his office computer because the user agreement gives Microsoft too much access to his confidential information.
The problem is the precedent:
Specific companies aside, there's a fairly disturbing trend that seems to make it acceptable for companies to gather information on their customers without the say-so of the customer. Sure, Microsoft and Blizzard may not be collecting the unrelated e-mail and headings of every window you have open on your system, at least not in long term storage, but they're setting the precedent for others to do it.
More importantly, it might be illegal for you to stop them:
It is illegal in U.S. law to actively attempt to circumvent a company's security systems. You can't modify an Xbox because you're violating this law. If you find a bug in a major piece of software that makes it vulnerable to hacking, you can't tell or publish about it because you're spreading the information illegally.
Many people in the forums have asked whether or not spyware programs could locate and block WoW spyware, known as Warden Client. Probably a more important question is whether or not you have the right to.
Considering that Warden Client exists as part of Blizzard's anti-hacking systems, it's very possible blocking the transmission of that information, or preventing the software from reading the personal information from your e-mail program and web browser, may be considered illegal even if possible.
Doesn't it bother you that there's even the possibility that a company has a legal right to search your computer for that sort of information, and that you might be violating the law to tell them no?
People in the United States, and else where, must be weary of laws and precedents that put more power into the hands of the companies than they do the consumer. While I don't believe that Blizzard or Microsoft is maliciously collecting information about their users, we have to seriously look at this issue and determine now, in clear fashion, what information companies are allowed to look at on our personal computers.
People that shrug their shoulders and declare that they don't care, that Blizzard already has their credit card number... they're missing the point.
Blizzard's not who we should be scared of. It's everyone that follows in their footsteps.
Hmmmm. I wonder if Diablo 2/LoD uses this? It might explain how they've caught players using Maphack.
No data is being transferred between your computer and Blizzard while the Warden is watching.
The Warden is simply a program with a very specific checklist. If it find a title of a window in conjunction with a couple of lines in the file to see if it is one of the programs that violate Blizzard's EULA.
If it finds something, it simply sends a report of time, date, account name, and violating software.
Since it is scanning active memory, you could have every WoW hack to date on your hard drive, but it wouldn't do anything if you weren't running them.
If anyone has any history of past Blizzard games, you would know the hacking history. From Diablo to Starcraft to Diablo 2. Diablo online was nearly destroyed from hacking programs.
See all the stuff we're missing-out on? :)
Incorrect. It's not the company's PC, it's yours. You get to do as you will with your own PC (legally speaking).
Now, it's probbaly illegal to hack into WoW's PC's to stop the communication with the software that they installed on your PC...but stopping something on your own PC is a different thing altogether.
"You get to do as you will with your own PC (legally speaking)"
except when you sign away those rights in exchange for services, as a condition of those services....although some of those EULAs surely are illegal and unenforceable...
...until we have the ICANN/UN/Clinton e-KELO electronic eminent domain ruling...God forbid!
No. When you sign an agreement, you are bound by that civil contract...but violating that private agreement is *not* a criminal offense in and of itself...it's merely a contractual violation that might have repercussions (perhaps even enforced by a court), but not jail time.
Unless it be declared that password and online commerce encryption and so on are munitions...
Or that online Free Speech is 'intolerant Hate Speech.'
Stopping a 3rd party software program from using **your** computer to send its own messages, even if encrypted, is **not** any sort of criminal offense, even if the encryption used is legally considered a munition.
It's probably fully authorized by the product EULA (if not their lawyers suck).
except contracts agreed to by minors which are unenforcable as an age of consent issue
we are talking about a game right ?
old thread day but saw this
If anyone has any history of past Blizzard games, you would know the hacking history. From Diablo to Starcraft to Diablo 2. Diablo online was nearly destroyed from hacking programs.”
Diablo (one) was absolutely rendered functionally useless for multiplayer outside of private games by same. Of course back then you were dependent on bnet iirc, and a much smaller user-base....
it was a joke, to say the least, despite being a game with no comparable competitor product that I was aware of.
I have found blizzard pretty good. in game gold spammng and other stuff is a problem and they are always responsive and right on it. WOW is an amazing game, but it only works cause blizard polices it in every way, in game behavior, spam and hacks.
i guess i would be worried if there was some evidence the info they gathered was abused in some way, but i dont think there is.
(blizzard: you watching? did you get that?)
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