So Real ID has been live for a couple of weeks now, and the controversy has hit a fever pitch in some areas while other people rejoice at lost connections coming back into touch. For me personally, I saw the system as a good opportunity to keep in touch with the real life friends I joined the game to keep in touch with. Nothing more, nothing less. So when one of my two close friends (who plays either on other servers/factions a lot or other Blizzard games) who the system would be best for me to use it with refused initially to use the system, I balked. Well needless to say that someone accepted a friend request this weekend and then while nobody else was online went through three hours of trying to use parental controls and such, freaking out over the features of Real ID.
The entire problem appears to be what is called "friends of friends." Basically if you've ever been on Facebook you will understand that you can set up your facebook profile to be shown only to friends or to friends of friends (default). Most people do not understand this default and so get freaked out when a boss or employer can look up your information despite not being friends with you. So the facebook controversy has spread through the web and while they fixed their system to allow more control, Blizzard still has this Real ID system in its infancy. Hence my buddy freaks out because his account and all his toons are exposed to "10 million people."
That's not how the system works. All you can see in the friends of friends list (and that's only if you click twice to get into that information for a particular player) is a list of real names in no particular order. No identifiers, no toon names, no email addresses, no nothing else. Just a list of names. Hence, if you have a friends list of maybe 5-10 people, they are all pretty anonymous. There's no real privacy risk here, unless you don't want your friends to bother you when you are on a toon that is your getaway from it all. But that being said, there's one simple rule I have to share with all of you using Real ID.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR FRIENDS LIST AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVEN'T ADDED ANYONE STUPID!!!
In the example I just gave you, if you don't want to be bothered when on a getaway toon, do not give your Real ID to guild members or people you will likely be getting away from. If they are your true friends, you should be able to tell them that you are not wantign to chat or group at the moment and they would respect your wishes. Obviously if they do not respect those simple wishes, then they shouldn't be your Real ID friend. Arguably they shouldn't be your facebook friend either, but that's a whole different can of worms that I do not regulate well myself.
There's already one horror story out there for Real ID about stalking just 10 days after the system goes live. You can read it for yourself by Googling the Real ID stalker incident, but here's the short version. Girl adds boyfriend and a couple other people on her Real ID list. Her boyfriend is a moron who adds every guildie who will accept him even though he knows few of them in real life. One of such guildies is a little teenager who has been basically separated from grouping with the girlfriend because he's a harassing jerk. Teenager sees boyfriend's friends of friends list has only one female name on it, he googles this name, and calls the girlfriend at work. Oh the horror! What can we do to stop this crazy train?
OK snap out of it, chicken little. First off, the girlfriend should immediately drop the boyfriend from her Real ID friends list because he is not keeping a responsible friends list. You'll be able to tell by monitoring your friends' lists every once in a while, as if one balloons up dramatically you should drop them. Especially if there's some reason you can be identified in a plain old list of names and you have reason (like a guild stalker) to not be known, then be careful! Second off, if this story is true, and with 10 million people it probably is, the girl should call the cops on this dumbass. He wants to be a general stalking douchebag, let him learn a valuable life lesson about respecting authority and the rule of law. Don't go write a big internet story telling people Real ID is broken because you made bad decisions and then did not handle the consequences as effectively as you could have.
So to my readers who may want to add me as a Real ID friend, I say nay nay. It's nothing personal, but I keep my friends list to a select few real life friends. People who have reason to know my email address and people who will be responsible with their own friends list. If you wanted to look me up and you had my name, fair enough go ahead and call. But be prepared to face the consequences. And that's the end of the story.
So while I'm unhappy with a friend for buying into the internet freak out about the latest way Blizzard is invading our privacy and ruining the game, life moves on. Keep yourself safe out there, but realize everyone is not out to get you.