The Itching, Burning Crusade

I’ve looked at the news for the new World of Warcraft expansion, and my reaction is pretty much “meh.” Of course, I’m still going to buy and play the hell out of it, but I can’t get all that excited about it. Partly because it seems like it’s most appealing to people who are either at level 60 and have run out of stuff to do (I’m not), and/or people who have played all the Warcraft games and see some recognizable back-story there (I don’t). Plus I’m just tired of Blizzard and have realized two things about the company:

  1. Blizzard has dicked over enough of my friends now that they have officially become “the bad guys.”
  2. You’ll only get my World of Warcraft game away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead, Wizard’s Ring of the Monkey (+10 Agility, Soulbound, required level 33)-wearing fingers.

So it’s kind of a love-hate relationship.

And that’s why articles like this one piss me off. It’s kind of old news: WoW has a program that runs when the game is running, monitoring other apps on your machine to make sure you’re not running some cheat software. One of the things it does is check the title bars of your other open applications, a commonly-used and publically-available Windows API call for years, to look for known cheat programs.

What pisses me off is that now, like with New Orleans vs. the Bush Administration, I’m finding myself siding with the bad guys (Blizzard) over the good guys (the Electronic Frontier Foundation). Now, I support the EFF (in spirit, not financially) and think it’s good to have them around. But they’ve taken what is at heart a great concept that everyone can agree with, and gone too extremist with it, much like Greenpeace, PETA, the ACLU, and NAMBLA.

From the article:

Digital rights group The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) branded The Warden “spyware” and said its use constituted “a massive invasion of privacy”.

The EFF said that it was not acceptable simply to take Blizzard’s word that it did nothing with the information it gathered. It added that the Blizzard could get away with using The Warden because information about it was buried in licence agreements that few people read.

A “massive invasion of privacy?” Please. And getting upset about what Blizzard might do with the information is what gets branded you an alarmist and conspiracy theorist. The last part is the worst, though. Anyone who’s alarmed and upset and blaming Blizzard should maybe, oh I don’t know, read the license agreements that they agreed to.

One quote from a different player of the game, who has a surprising amount of common sense for a Blizzard fan:

“If someone is afraid of the program reading sensitive information from their programs, one possible solution is simply to not run any additional programs while playing World of Warcraft,” he said, “which is certainly advisable from a performance standpoint to begin with.”

What a novel concept. If you don’t like Blizzard knowing that you’re looking at porn sites or on an AOL chat with DarkNEO2731, then just close those windows before you play the game.

Here’s the bit about the Brainiac who “discovered” the “massive invasion of privacy” by “dissasembling the code” of the program to watch in action (read: he ran a copy of WinSpy):

Writing in his blog about what he found Mr Hoglund said: “I watched The Warden sniff down the e-mail addresses of people I was communicating with on MSN, the URL of several websites that I had open at the time, and the names of all my running programs.”

Mr Hoglund noted that the text strings in title bars could easily contain credit card details or social security numbers.

Okay, complain about Blizzard all you want on your blog, yeah whatever. But let me give you some helpful advice: if you’re dealing with a bank or company that puts your credit card details in the title bar of its site, it’s time for you to stop complaining to a videogame company and start finding yourself a real bank. Sheesh.

Having to read all these tech news websites, especially where privacy rights online are concerned, just makes me realize what a bunch of whiny, paranoid bitches computer people are.