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Online Anonymity is a Right, Not a Privilege

In this week’s edition of Digital Life, intern Daryl Lim says that he would rather have real names attached to their forum handles to make people more civil to each other on the Internet. Now, this of course, is in reference to Blizzard’s decision last week to have their RealID system (where your real name is shown) in the forums to reduce the amount of trolling and racist polls.

In fact, he even calls it a “crying shame” that Blizzard has instead retracted the plan, but I definitely disagree. It’s a gross violation of privacy; for one, you had no opt out option. Sure, you can choose not to post, but what if you need technical support? Or maybe, you are just someone who wants to post normally on the forums, but in doing so, you reveal that you are a girl, and get harassed/stalked?

Or perhaps, someone you beat in-game now knows your real name and can easily track you down, and I’ve heard of the crazy CounterStrike: Source player who took 6 months to track his rival down and stabbed him. Well with your real name revealed, guess what? It probably won’t take that long given how much information people put online.

The reverse would hold true - don’t put your information online then, but the issue in discussion stems from a game forum, not a social media network. Thankfully, Blizzard has since backed off with the RealID scheme, though it will still be used inside their games but only for friends that you really know. Those you don't know, will be going by their character name. Now, to be fair to Daryl, he’s got a point that the use of real names will cut down on flaming and racism, but at what cost? The cost of my privacy, the cost of your privacy?

Maybe Blizzard should hire more moderators to police their forums and have a stricter policy control. Our forums have their fair share of flames but we have rules in place and a very dedicated bunch of moderators that do their job pretty well. Offenders are given warnings before they lose the right to post. That’s a better solution than if the Hardware Zone forums were to suddenly say, “you have no choice now, we’re going to reveal your name for everyone to see”. Imagine the flaming and outpour that would follow suit.

And as for Daryl, maybe you might want to think just how bad it would be if your real name were to be revealed in the games you play. For example, they might just easily find out what school you attend (Purdue University), where did you last work at (Interning at SPH), your pictures, the clubs that you join, your Facebook page - all from just a simple Google search. Not sounding like such a good idea after all, eh?

As for me, I’m comfortable with what I have online, but I definitely do not want it to be associated with the games I play (even though I do state what game I used to play), but think of how abusive this would be in the wrong hands.

Aloysius Low / Former Tech Writer

Tech writer, gadget nerd, cat owner and social media junkie, Aloysius loves exploring the wacky side of tech, while tackling his notebook reviews.

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