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Change is Good, but Change is Difficult

One of the most important aspects of a privacy program is making sure that your customers and other stakeholders understand any changes that are made to your privacy policy and notice.  If they know what you are doing, and you are transparent about it, generally you will be able to have positive interactions with your customers and continue providing a great service.  Sometimes, though, it can be met with a lot of resistance.  I want to take a look at the latter, and see what we can learn.

Some of you may be familiar with a company called Blizzard, a West Coast based video game developer.  They are known for a number of well received, multimillion dollar titles, including the massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft.  One aspect of this game, and most games in recent history, is the online forum.  Here, players can interact with one another through discussion on gameplay, suggestions, or any other relevant topic. One thing is generally constant, that being forum visitors use an online username, or alias.

Big Change from RealID

In 2010, Blizzard announced the Real ID system.  This was the idea that you could chat while playing games with friends regardless of the games you were playing. However you were required to  exchange some personal information, your real name (first and last).

This change was well received because you could play one Blizzard game and chat with friends in another. Since this was completely optional, it met with no real resistance.  Then Blizzard made the bigger announcement.  At some near future date, they would make all posts on their forums use only real names.  The players went nuts.

Backlash from Customers

The goal of this change was to prevent trolling and other harassment by removing anonymity from players. Blizzard’s thinking was that being anonymous plus having an audience turns regular people into horrid monsters to who do not fear any repercussions.

Players shot back that it would jeopardize their real life situations.  Employers would not hire you over another person given the stigma of “gamers” for example.  One forum moderator let everyone know his real name, which was done to ease tensions.  This well intentioned action resulted in his personal information being made public. Items such as his wife and children’s names, where they go to school or work, etc. were leaked onto the internet.

In the end Blizzard decided not to move forward with the plan. Some speculate the policy was never intended to change, but only announced to test the waters.

What is the Take Away?

The lesson learned is that it is important to assess the situation, discussing possible outcomes first, then pick actions that get the best results.   Of course, it is always important to assess your current policies and make sure they are up to date with current standards, but also meet the needs of your company.