Well, everyone who was paranoid about Blizzard having too much information for their own good, you can rest easy. For now, it seems, Blizzard's Real ID program has been put on ice. Fort hose who haven't been following the story, Blizzard announced a few months ago that it would be introducing a program called "Real ID," giving users the ability to use their real name in battle.net and on online forums. While it seemed that Blizzard was demanding that users give up their real name or else they would be unable to participate, Blizzard was quick to remove it as a requirement.
In a stunning (and you have to admit, somewhat amusing) turn of events, the ESRB, who received a number of complaints about the invasion of privacy that the Real ID program would result in, accidentally revealed their email adresses of those who complained. Jokes aside, this has been a major headache for Blizzard in what would otherwise have been a fantastic year. And now, Blizzard has posted on their forums the decision that they've made concerning the future of Real ID:
"We'd like to make you aware of the new Real ID-related privacy options we've introduced to Battle.net. These options provide Real ID users with additional tools for customizing the service based on their preferences, enabling the ability to opt in or out of the Real ID "Friends of Friends" and "Add Facebook Friends" features or to turn off Real ID altogether."
"Real ID offers an optional, convenient way for keeping in touch with real-world friends you know and trust, whether they're playing World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, or one of our future games. The "Friends of Friends" and "Add Facebook Friends" features provide you with even more options to stay connected while you play by making it easier for real-life friends to locate each other on Battle.net. You can easily enable or disable these features through your Battle.net privacy settings by logging in to your Battle.net account at http://www.battle.net/."
So we can all breathe easy. The service is now just that, offering the ability to access your real friends with greater ease, and opt in or out of features that you aren't quite comfortable with. Hopefully, we can now get back to looking forward to the Cataclysm. Personally, I was in the camp of people who have been used to posting under my own name, and thought that demanding some responsibility from users who wished to post on Blizzard's forums would only result in a more responsible level of discussion.
But in the end, the most reasonable solution was probably the one arrived at. If you are comfortable with using your real name in Blizzard's online community, then with that come some advantages. Not bonuses, just a better way of finding and connecting with friends. If you feel that this is too much for Blizzard to ask, and value your anonymity, then you still have it. With any luck, this entire issue has shown people that anonymity can be just as much of a privilege as it is a right, so hopefully we'll all act accordingly.
And remember: Big Blizzard is watching.