Game maker faces suit over info gathering

Summary:A privacy suit leveled at game publisher Blizzard Entertainment Inc. will have little affect on the company, its business, or its online gaming service Battle.

A privacy suit leveled at game publisher Blizzard Entertainment Inc. will have little affect on the company, its business, or its online gaming service Battle.net, said industry watchers on Monday.

"This is not going to impact enough customers to hurt Blizzard's business nor Battle.net's," said Seema Williams, industry analyst for market watcher Forrester Research Inc.

The flurry around Blizzard is the result of the company's attempt to collect information about potential software pirates that copied the company's latest game, StarCraft.






Last week, Driscoll filed suit in San Francisco saying that Blizzard snowed its users on privacy.




Last week, independent attorney Donald Driscoll filed a suit against the company in San Francisco county court alleging that it had violated two sections of the California Penal Code.

Whoops!
Blizzard confirmed that the company had been collecting information, but said in a statement that it was done for only 7 days and only for technical support reasons.

At the beginning of April, the Net was abuzz with rumors that Blizzard's newest real-time gaming title was sending users' names and e-mail addresses to the company whenever the users tried -- and failed -- to connect to the firm's online gaming service, Battle.net.

"Apparently, when someone failed to get online, either they were using a copy, or someone was using a copy of their program," said Driscoll, who is not suing the company for damages, but to force the company to fully refund any affected customer's purchase. "That's means at least half the time, you are taking information from someone who has done nothing wrong."

Susan Wooley, a spokeswoman for game publisher, would not comment on Driscoll's allegation, only saying that the filing was "not 100 percent accurate."

Gamers won't care
For the most part -- no matter how the suit turns out -- gamer's are not going to care, say experts.

"Most hardcore gamers are pretty reasonable about buying their own copy," said Forrester's Williams. "People are not going to say, 'I can't believe that are stopping me from stealing their game.'"

Information should always be collected with the user's knowledge, said Garth Chouteau, spokesman for online game service Total Entertainment Network and for the Professional Gamers League.

"Anyone going out there gathering data claiming altruistic motives is probably not being up front," he said.

Privacy in danger?
The storm surrounding Blizzard could be a boon for privacy advocates. The case is rather benign, but shows the power of exploiting a tool that many have taken for granted.

"I see it as an early example of what could be a widespread problem," said attorney Driscoll. "If someone else set up a site similar to Battle.net, they could have uploaded any player's registry data."

At least one privacy advocate agrees that the dangers are real.

"As people become more connected to the Internet, this could become a much more major problem," said Dave Banisar, staff consul with the privacy watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Center. "This case definitely needs watching."

Topics: Privacy, Piracy, Security

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