Blizzard Explains E-mail Sniffing

Has Starcraft publisher crossed the line in accessing Battle.net gamers' e-mail and name information?

For over a week, gamers have been contacting GameSpot News stating that when attempting to play Starcraft over Blizzard's online gaming service Battle.net, the company was extracting e-mail and name data from gamers' Windows 95-based machines.

Late Tuesday, Blizzard Entertainment confirmed gamers' suspicions and explained why it had taken the information without gamers' knowledge.

The company says that shortly after Starcraft shipped, it began receiving customer complaints from a small number of users having trouble connecting to Battle.net wanting to play multiplayer sessions. Many users were complaining that their CD keys, the special numbers on the jewel cases that ship with most software, were not allowing them access to the online service.

So Blizzard reacted. In an attempt to solve gamers' problems, Blizzard gathered information from people who couldn't log onto the service. The information, which was gathered without users' knowledge, consisted of e-mail and name information. Blizzard says this took place over a single seven-day period to help users who were denied access to Battle.net.

By collecting this information, Blizzard says this helped determine whether the problems stemmed from a manufacturing glitch or from piracy. Also, Blizzard says that by gathering this information it was able to contact users with CD problems via e-mail.

Except for this seven-day period, Blizzard says it has never collected any user information. Blizzard says the information that was obtained during this period didn't go beyond what is typically extracted by Internet browsers or registration cards.

Blizzard pointed out that it keeps "no user database of any kind in conjunction with Battle.net. Battle.net is one of the only online services that require no personal data to play on the service - no name, address, phone, credit card information, etc. We believe that our track record proves our respect for gamers' privacy."

There is little doubt that gamers are going to want to speak out on this subject, so we'd like to hear what you have to say. Was Blizzard justified in gathering this personal information in the interest of helping gamers, or do you feel it was wrong to extract personal data without being notified? E-mail me below.

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