Is Blizzard Secretly Watermarking WoW Players?
World of Warcraft users make a note: Your private information may have been mined by Blizzard via your WoW activity for over four years. A player who apparently moonlights as Sherlock Holmes discovered the problem. Courtesy of Slashdot, Here’s the scoop:
A few days ago I noticed some weird artifacts covering the screenshots I captured using the WoW game client application. I sharpened the images and found a repeating pattern secretly embedded inside. I posted this information on the OwnedCore forum and after an amazing three-day cooperation marathon, we managed to prove that all our WoW screenshots, since at least 2008, contain a custom watermark. This watermark includes our user IDs, the time the screenshot was captured and the IP address of the server we were on at the time. It can be used to track down activities which are against Blizzard’s Terms of Service, like hacking the game or running a private server. The users were never notified by the ToS that this watermarking was going on so, for four years now, we have all been publicly sharing our account and realm information for hackers to decode and exploit. You can find more information on how to access the watermark in the aforementioned forum post which is still quite active.
A post explaining how to find this yourself adds “The secret watermark which is being intentionally embedded inside WoW generated screenshots below top quality, DOES NOT CONTAIN the account password, the IP address of the user or any personal information like name/surname etc. It does contain the account ID, a timestamp and the IP address of the current realm. It can be used by hackers to link alt. characters to accounts and target specific spam or scam attacks, and it can be used by Blizzard to track down private WoW servers.”
It isn’t clear, but my guess is this is probably some kind of risk management tool. Reddit is divided between people who think it’s harmless (some going so far as to tip their hats), and those who fear it’s an invasion of privacy and of the TOS agreement. Blizzard hasn’t officially commented, but we’ll let you know if this changes.