ESRB Flub Spills Private Details of Privacy Advocates

esrb flub spills private details of privacy advocates 500x wowmails

This is either a case of irony, or stupidity, but the results are the same. When Blizzard announced that it would soon be requiring forum members to display their real names in an effort to improve the sense of community on the forums, it did not go over well. Within hours there were thousands of posts protesting the decision. Within days there were tens of thousands.

The idea of posting your real name struck a nerve with many, not just because they would lose the ability to totally anonymously tell people that they sucked, but also because of privacy concerns. Women especially seemed to be concerned, as female gamers have frequently been a target of in-game stalking, and to potentially expose their real names could lead to far more problems than benefits.

The protests became so heated and intense, that a small movement began to send an official letter to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The hope was that the ESRB, a hugely influential group in the gaming world, could put pressure on Blizzard to reverse its decision.

Whether the protest had any affect or not, Blizzard did reverse its decision and will not require the real names, citing both security and the overwhelming reaction from fans.

However, is reporting that the ESRB apparently had different ideas about privacy, and while replying to the people that emailed in, someone apparently hit the “reply all” button, and sent the nearly 1,000 emails to everyone on the list- exposing them to almost the exact security problems they were protesting in the first place.

The ironically worded email reads:

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

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

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

Pay special attention to the last paragraph of that email.  Hopefully the 1,000 or so people on the email recognize the goof here and don’t take advantage of the email addresses – many of which, ironically, are the sender’s names.