A large number of people who wrote to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to protest Blizzard's controversial RealID scheme received quite a shock earlier this week. The RealID policy would have added a user's real first and last name to all posts on the World of Warcraft and battle.net forums. After three days of public complaint, however, it was canceled.
An ESRB response letter was then sent openly displaying the email addresses of the nearly 1000 people who, rather ironically, aimed to promote privacy. As if that was not ironic enough, the letter finishes with a statement about how the ESRB “helps companies develop practices to safeguard users' personal information online”.
The ESRB later issued an apology to the “limited” number of people affected, and a public statement. The software ratings board places fault for the botched mass email on “one of our employees”, and promises to do “everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future”.
The original letter, follow-up, and public statement follow below.
"Thank you for contacting the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) regarding the policy recently announced by Blizzard Entertainment which would have required participants in its official forums to post comments using their real first and last names, and for expressing your concerns regarding potential privacy implications.
It is our understanding that Blizzard has provided an update announcing that it will not be implementing the above-referenced policy with respect to its forums, and users will not be required to post using their real names. You can read Blizzard's announcement regarding this most recent development at http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=25968987278&sid=1&pageNo=1.
Separately, if you have questions regarding Blizzard's implementation of its Real ID option -- which by our understanding is unrelated to Blizzard's plans for its forums -- and/or the new capabilities this option offers, they will likely be answered by reviewing the information posted at http://www.battle.net/realid/.
ESRB, through its Privacy Online program, helps companies develop practices to safeguard users' personal information online while still providing a safe and enjoyable video game experience for all. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us with your concerns, and please feel free to direct any future inquiries you may have regarding online privacy to our attention.
Entertainment Software Rating Board"
“Yesterday we sent an e-mail to a number of consumers who wrote to us in recent days expressing their concern with respect to Blizzard's Real ID program. Given the large number of messages we received, we decided to respond with a mass e-mail so those who'd written us would receive our response as quickly as possible - rather than responding to each message individually, as is our usual practice.
Through an unfortunate error by one of our employees, some recipients were able to see the e-mail addresses of others who wrote on the same issue. Needless to say, it was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry. Those who write to ESRB to express their views expect and deserve to have their contact and personal information protected. In this case, we failed to do so and are doing everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future.
The fact that our message addressed individuals' concerns with respect to their privacy underscores how truly disappointing a mistake this was on our part. We work with companies to ensure they are handling people's private information with confidentiality, care and respect. It is only right that we set a good example and do no less ourselves.
We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by this error and appreciate their understanding.
Entertainment Software Rating Board"
"In our effort to respond quickly to the thousands of gamers who wrote to the ESRB, we inadvertently revealed a limited number of recipients' e-mail addresses in our reply. This was both unfortunate and regrettable, and for that we sincerely apologize to all those who were affected. They deserve to trust that their information will be handled with the same confidentiality, care and respect that we require of companies that display our Privacy Online seal. We take this issue seriously and are doing everything we can to ensure it does not happen again in the future.
- Eliot Mizrachi, ESRB"