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Activision Blizzard Secretly Watermarking World of Warcraft Users

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the information-theory dept.

Privacy 272

New submitter kgkoutzis writes "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."

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Ahem (-1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299289)

Koooootiiiiiccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

That's no watermark... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299295)

It's a space station!

Re:That's no watermark... (3, Funny)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299439)

No it's a sail boat!

Re:That's no watermark... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300283)

Online Games, it is the game makers best interests to be hard against cheater. Because if left uncontrolled they will ruin the game for everyone.
So if you are going to be taking screen shots of your cheating. Might as well get tracked down and banned because of it.

I remember back in them olden days of Lan Parties. A professor in my college actually hosted a WarCraft II Lan Party. So we were on two teams, One side had the professors 8th grade kid. He found a cheat that worked online. Once we found out both sides of the players (including his own team) in general told him that he cant play anymore. We wanted to play using our own skills if we won we won, if we loss we loss no big deal, not cheat, just to win.

Other games? (4, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299343)

Is this known to be the case for any other games? IE: Diablo III?

Re:Other games? (5, Funny)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299483)

I know surfing the web using Internet Explorer can be a bit of an adventure, but even so, I think that's probably the first time I've seen it referred to as a "game".

Re:Other games? (2, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299673)

Internet Explorer is indeed a game. It is just a game played at a higher level and you are unwittingly a participant in that game acting as a pawn. That you may or may not actually be using that software is itself a part of the game.

Re:Other games? (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299839)

So I take it the only way to win IE is not to play. In that case, how does one start with a store-bought PC and download something better such as Firefox, Chrome, or a whole different operating system, without playing?

Re:Other games? (0)

moronoxyd (1000371) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299891)

FTP. USB flash drive, CD ROM, DVD, external hard drive.
Get the idea?

Re:Other games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299975)

Windows has a built-in telnet client, and an FTP client as part of IIS.
You can connect to a server and download the Firefox installer that way without touching IE.

I have a shared folder on my network of many common installers for programs everyone in the household uses should they need to reinstall something. Firefox, 7-Zip, and OpenOffice are amongst them (obviously this wont help you, but you could do something similar on your own network, or on a router that supports USB devices for network storage.

one word for you NINITE (0)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300189)

http://ninite.com/.net-7zip-air-chrome-firefox-flash-flashie-foxit-java-opera-pdfcreator-reader-safari-shockwave-silverlight/ [ninite.com]

that covers just about everything you would need download (on another computer) shove it onto a flash drive and then run on your new computer (must have network connection)

Re:Other games? (0)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299851)

Are you kidding IE's a roller-coaster Ride :)

Re:Other games? (0)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299965)

Oh, IE certainly is a game. A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Re:Other games? (-1, Troll)

Mr. Kinky (2726685) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299487)

Yes, for example Fifa 98 [youtube.com] - waiit for it.. WHOOHOO!!!

Re:Other games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299967)

You keep posting this link to every news article on slashdot, you'd think eventually you'd realise that you look like a total dufus.

Re:Other games? (3, Interesting)

the simurgh (1327825) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299857)

i wonder how long till a lawsuit is filled because activision basically gave hackers all the info they needed to hack accounts and never told account holders not to post screengrabs because it contained account info.

Unsubstantiated Rubbish (-1, Troll)

CadentOrange (2429626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299345)

From reading the thread, the artifacts do not appear when JPEG quality is set to 10 (i.e. maximum) or if a non-lossy algorithm is used (like TIFF or PNG). If this was meant to be a watermark, the programmer who wrote the algorithm should be fired.

These are most likely JPEG compression artefacts.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299419)

Also, whoever decided that screenshots should be saved as jpeg by default (assuming it is default) should be fired.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299593)

Originally the game only saved screenshots as TGA, but at some point JPEG was made the default setting and you had to edit a config file to change it back. It might be a setting in the UI now, I don't know.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299865)

Why? What would be the point of lossless screenshots from a game? Do you really think everyone needs pixel-perfect screenshots from a game? Or do you work for a storage company and you want people to fill their hard drives faster?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300259)

Would you read an article about graphics cards where the author was looking at compression artifacts instead of the true anti-aliasing effect?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (2)

cluedweasel (832743) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299957)

From the frequent "how to I open a screenshot" posts that used to appear in the WoW TS forum, I suspect it was changed to lower support calls.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (-1, Redundant)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299425)

OMFG, you're probably right. Can we mod this submission as troll?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299447)

it's a pretty far done troll if so, if you read further to the thread(there was some disassembly from mac client).

(it would be entirely feasible that they remove the watermark at full quality.. because it would be obvious then).

this is blizzard we're talking about after all. (I don't think jpg artifacts would position themselves like that, not on any of my pron pics anyways)

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300323)

Dude have you ever tried to support clueless users? I would remind everyone this is WoW, a game that has everyone from Mr T to soccer moms playing the thing.

In hindsight was it a good idea to put this data in there without it being encrypted? Probably not but oh Lord I can see why they did it! Personally i wish I had an easy way to have the relevant data on the system just handed to me in a screenshot by the user pushing a single button than playing twenty questions like "What OS are you running?" what's an OS? "What version of Windows is on the machine?" Windows "Windows what?" Huh?

Now picture that conversation going on for a half an hour or more and you can see why tech support would want a way to have the facts just handed to them, because I can imagine with the volume of support calls with issues like "My Warcraft looks funny!" cutting through the bullshit would seriously cut down on support time.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299455)

If you read the thread, other people have actually decoded those "compression artifacts", and even wrote a tool to do it so, no, those aren't just artifacts.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

fche (36607) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299787)

Linky please?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299913)

At least read the summary.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300039)

Why? What did it say?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300147)

What a retard you are. Just read the first few sentences, then click on the link.
Or do you actually need someone to come and fucking click on the link for you?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299463)

How do you account for the pattern then?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299495)

Has anyone actually done some work on the quality 10 screenshots to ensure that the pattern isn't actually still in the structure of the file?

It was my understanding that digimarc's tech was supposed to make their watermarks essentially invisible to the human eye, and perhaps it is a biproduct of lossy compression that's actually showing the pattern on lower qualities.

Has someone taken the eye-dropper tool to a large section of a quality 10 screenshot to verify that there aren't pixels that have a different color by even one bit?

Substantiated Fact (5, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299511)

This post has a script to save the watermark only [ownedcore.com]

Next time, actually read the thread before posting.

Re:Substantiated Fact (0)

aitikin (909209) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299583)

Read the thread? This is Slashdot, I'm surprised he read the summery!

Re:Substantiated Fact (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299885)

I'm sorry but that's totally false. The moon isn't made of cheese.

Re:Substantiated Fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300321)

or the silly thing that the first thing I saw when I got to site the article is on was a WOW bot site banner ad. oh wonders and joy.

Re:Substantiated Fact (1)

Copperhamster (1031604) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300167)

Ahh Fraps, the best investment I ever made so many years ago when games often didn't do these 'screenshot' things.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (5, Informative)

kgkoutzis (1018536) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299515)

From reading the thread, the artifacts do not appear when JPEG quality is set to 10 (i.e. maximum) or if a non-lossy algorithm is used (like TIFF or PNG). If this was meant to be a watermark, the programmer who wrote the algorithm should be fired.

These are most likely JPEG compression artefacts.

They did this on purpose, in order to avoid having their watermark identified when viewing the images in really high quality. An Assembly expert wrote some code that allows you to add this watermark on purpose in the high quality images: http://www.ownedcore.com/forums/world-of-warcraft/world-of-warcraft-general/375573-looking-inside-your-screenshots-4.html#post2491687 [ownedcore.com] We also decoded the content of the watermark and it indeed contains the account information, as mentioned. It is NOT artifacts. Please read the full forum post before posting dis-informative comments. Thank you.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300011)

Wait, they added un unencrypted watermark? Why on earth would you NOT encrypt a watermark of this kind?

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (4, Informative)

Mortimer82 (746766) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300141)

The thread indicates it may have appeared during WotLK alpha builds and only contains:
- Account name that was used pre-BNET or otherwise a post-BNET numeric account name. (email address is NOT included)
- IP address of the realm you are connected to, NOT the client IP. (However, this could be used to identify pirate servers).
- The time the screenshot was taken

I suspect it was most likely used to catch people leaking imagery of alpha builds which were not allowed to be made public. WotLK was the last WoW expansion Blizzard tried to keep secret for the alpha, but everyone was leaking it despite very clear NDAs having to be agreed to by all who participated. With their next expansion, they didn't bother with an NDA outside of a very small group of initial internal testers.

I wouldn't call this any kind of breach of privacy as none of the information is personal. An account name can only be matched to a real name by Blizzard and only if you play on their servers.

Of course privacy zealots will say otherwise, but each to their own.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (0)

MatthiasF (1853064) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299523)

Or the embedded information can only be seen from sharpening when there is JPEG compression.

The watermark is probably in the uncompressed files too, you just can't easily pull them out with sharpening because the file is uncompressed.

Absurd (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299591)

JPEG compression artifacts? That's absurd! How would a random compression artifact contain the UserID, Time, and IP address? I'd be more likely to believe that was an actual picture of Jesus in my Sandwich. The reason the lossy compression just reveals the pattern.

Re:Absurd (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299741)

Blizzard actually poisons the kernel entropy pool so cleverly that 'random' behaviors by the computer end up leaking identifiable information. Very sneaky of them...

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299623)

I'm not surprised the commenter above didn't read the posts following the first post of the source.

What's important are these posts:

1.) Disassembly from the Mac OS X client, which shows watermark functions triggered in the screenshot routine.
http://www.ownedcore.com/forums/world-of-warcraft/world-of-warcraft-general/375573-looking-inside-your-screenshots-2.html#post2489452

2.) Using a memory modifier, the client is edited to only save the watermark (discarding the actual screenshot) even in JPEG 10 and Lossless formats. Completely disproves compression artefacts theory.
http://www.ownedcore.com/forums/world-of-warcraft/world-of-warcraft-general/375573-looking-inside-your-screenshots-4.html#post2491687

3.) Further disassembly shows the following are included in the watermark: Account Name, Realm Info (Serialized, unknown content), Realm IP, Timestamp
http://www.ownedcore.com/forums/world-of-warcraft/world-of-warcraft-general/375573-looking-inside-your-screenshots-5.html#post2492494

You really should read some of the posts in between as well, linking Digimarc to Blizzard Activision, patents filed by Digimarc describing precisely this watermarking technique (and possible predecessors), and how the payload (88 bytes) is repeated multiple times exactly to 5808 bytes in order to survive anticipated resizing and further compression.

Whilst I'm sure they may have good intents (for support maybe? giving benefit of the doubt here), it's these kinds of tricks being pulled by digital companies whilst keeping consumers in the dark that really turns me off.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (1)

degeneratemonkey (1405019) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300045)

More people should read my post's parent.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299737)

They claim it's been successfully decoded, but that code rule and examples are not provided. As they give the steps to generate such a picture, it would be otherwise easy enough to verify.

Re:Unsubstantiated Rubbish (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300035)

mod parent up. this is exactly what I got out of the article.

Just JPG artifacts (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299347)

But hey, better to post the troll article for the page views, right?

Re:Just JPG artifacts (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299427)

"Watermarks do not work that way!!! Good night!"

Re:Just JPG artifacts (1)

Metabolife (961249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299597)

Yes, strategically place JPG artifacts caused by known compression techniques to create a readable barcode.

Re:Just JPG artifacts (-1, Troll)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299791)

What a fucking moron.

*Insert X-Files theme song* (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299355)

*Tu du tu du du duuuuuuu*
*neh neh nah nah* [echo]
-----*neh neh nah nah*

Cows!! (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299363)

There was an infamous cows shot from a hell level of diablo2 from years ago that my character surrounded by hundreds of cows. Wonder if that if that was watermarked?

Re:Cows!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299661)

Thanks for your input onyxruby@comcast.net

Brain encoding. (3, Funny)

Valor958 (2724297) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299365)

It's not actually a watermark on the picture. It's a watermark encoded in your brain from playing too much WoW.

Ouch (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299369)

Ouch. That's gotta hurt. I think there's a case for even places like the EU commission there, if people are unknowingly distributing other's data.

That said, I don't really care because I've never touched WoW. But, yeah, I can see the problem. 4 years of IP -> client records, plus things like date-time stamps. If nothing else, that's a whole host of web-crawling to link people to IP's, accounts.

You kind of expect it in pre-release reviews or betas or something but in the full client and in every screenshot? Bit nasty.

More interesting - what other games do that?

Re:Ouch (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299413)

More then you think. It was a feature in spore. It let you drag the image to the game and the game would pick up the animal in the image. It was an awesome feature.

Re:Ouch (2)

xSquaredAdmin (725927) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299677)

According to the summary it links user IDs to the IP of the server they were on, not the client's IP.

Re:Ouch (1)

Wovel (964431) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300023)

It's the server IP...

Reminds me of the Printer affair (4, Informative)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299383)

HP (and others) used to, or maybe still do, use watermarking in printers to hide data revealing time, printer type, etc.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-5811739-7.html [cnet.com]
https://www.eff.org/issues/printers [eff.org]
~ Meta data is watching

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299493)

All printer manufactures do this.
It's done at the request of the government, for officially anti-counterfeiting purposes.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299549)

'request' ?

yeah, they use pastel colored letterhead and say 'pretty please' when they ask you.

sheesh!

FORCED by the gov is more like it.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (2)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299625)

I didn't know all printer manufacturers did; I'll be looking into it further, despite not having a printer for 5 years. The "officially anti-counterfeiting" bit is pretty dubious (as an excuse, not your statement) though. I actually thought their excuse would be The Children. Either way, while I dislike criminal activity, I do like due anonymity.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299789)

If memory serves, it isn't actually a factor of printer manufacturer(and/or re-badger); but of the OEM behind the color laser print engine. Apparently there are relatively few of those, and some, thanks to a little leaning from Uncle Sam the details of which have never come to light, include the watermarking 'feature' in all their print engines. Since printer manufacturers can, and sometimes do, switch parts suppliers between models, a given manufacturer might have both bugged and clean hardware on offer at a given time.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299943)

This is pretty common. Once printers got decent color quality the government said "Hey, people are using your printers for counterfeiting. Do something to mitigate this or we'll try to legislate something and it'll probably suck for everyone involved." This is SOP in a lot of areas.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300047)

Some software(Photoshop being the big name; but not exclusive to them) also includes this 'feature'. If you manipulate an image of a major world currency in excessive detail, a neat little binary module included with photoshop will snag you and direct you to this [rulesforuse.org] rather bland organization.

Re:Reminds me of the Printer affair (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299867)

https://www.eff.org/pages/list-printers-which-do-or-do-not-display-tracking-dots
http://miami.typepad.com/springyleaks/2012/05/foia-release-names-spy-printers.html

Why? (0)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299389)

Why would you upload and share your WoW screenshots anyway?

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

iamagloworm (816661) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299451)

One may also ask 'Why would you play WoW?' but the answer is not a pleasant thing to say.

Re:Why? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299465)

Same reason they want to add your Facebook, twitter, game stats & time played/pissed away on line. A really shit reason.

Re:Why? (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299473)

Guild Websites, How To guides etc

Re:Why? (4, Informative)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299963)

I'm assuming you're just being sarky, but the question sort-of merits a proper answer in case anybody is actually interested. There are a few reasons:

1) Proof of a particular achievement. Guild websites etc frequently post screenshots of kills of new bosses (or of Arena victories if they're PvP focussed) to demonstrate the level they're playing at as an aid to recruitment. You see less of this these days, since the game added an actual achievement system, along the lines of that seen on Xbox Live or Steam.

2) Guides and walkthroughs for particular parts of the game (generally boss fights). There's a trend these days towards using youtube videos as a substitute for more traditional text-and-pictures guides. Now, youtube videos can have their place in describing MMO encounters (though I hate, loathe and despise them as a susbstitute for walkthroughs for offline games), but text-and-pictures is still much more convenient for a quick-reference guide and people are still making them.

3) Requests for technical help. Something along the lines of "hey, guys, I installed addon x, but it doesn't seem to be working properly - here's a screenshot".

4) Random silliness - either "look, I managed to get my character somewhere that's supposed to be inaccessible" (which you see less of these days) or "look, we used 500 dead gnomes to spell out "bumpoo" in giant letters across the Barrens".

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299971)

Why do people take photographs of silly signposts etc and show their friends?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300199)

Troll?

I uploaded mine because my 29 rogue got the highest damage I had ever seen at that level in warsong gulch.

I've done it to prove to new groups that my warrior could tank and DPS, and was capable of switching in three seconds.

I've done it to show a character in a guild profile...

In post-guild first-ever-raid pictures...

I mean, do you really have to ask this? Yes, there are OCD people that just grind, but for a lot of people, it's a social experience.

I refuse WoW these days, but I do miss some of my friends from it. Some of my best and longest friendships have been from MUDs played nearly 20 years ago...

Ask Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299421)

Sigh. This kind of story makes me miss ignorant Ask Slashdot questions. I wonder if the OP would mind if I told him how to select the best network cable for use at home.

Re:Ask Slashdot (3, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299909)

Sigh. This kind of story makes me miss ignorant Ask Slashdot questions. I wonder if the OP would mind if I told him how to select the best network cable for use at home.

I'd like to know - the cheap cables I keep buying on eBay often fail after a few plug/unplug cycles, and the $20 Systimax patch cables seem like overkill.

sketchy but legit (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299431)

Their TOS describes how and what info is SENT to them by the client. This is information on your own computer. They don't have to tell you all the places they store your information. Think copy protection. There's a good deal of sneaky things they're doing on your computer to make sure you're running a legit license. They don't have to tell you about any of that. If you take a file that their client makes, and upload it somewhere, it may contain identifying information in it. This just happens to be a screenshot / image, that you wouldn't normally expect metadata to be in.

It's not too different than say, your digital camera embedding metadata. And it does. A lot. Usually common things like date/time, fstop, exposure, etc, but also can include model of camera, CAMERA SERIAL NUMBER, gps location, firmware version, total number of shots taken, etc etc.

So you can take off the tinfoil hat. It's too late. They're already in your head.

Re:sketchy but legit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299863)

"This just happens to be a screenshot / image, that you wouldn't normally expect metadata to be in."

The data is part of the JPG image itself, it is not metadata. Metadata can easily be removed from a file, the data Blizzard has placed into a JPG would require removal with Gimp or Photoshop.

This is really sloppy on Blizzard's part and they deserve the firestorm headed their way.

Re:sketchy but legit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300191)

No, this watermark contains metadata. It's just not stored in the 'normal' format used for image metadata.

Metadata is data about data. The data in question is the screen shot. The meta data is the user id, etc. which is stored as a watermark in the image.

Re:sketchy but legit (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299951)

The difference with digital camera watermarking is that EXIF is a (not always obvious depending on the UI, and sometimes less standard that it ought to be) standardized metadata storage system. The internet is rife with amusing mistakes made by people who don't know about exif and upload anyway; but that's a UI/user problem. The fields are well known, easily viewed and edited with commonly available software, and not designed to be covert or strip-resistant in any way. Some imaging devices are, quite arguably, excessively chatty by default, and that is a legitimate concern given user ignorance; but there isn't anything sneaky about the technology.

Watermarks, at least in this incarnation, are designed to be covert, strip-resistant, and are not intended for the creator of the image to be aware of.

This is a 'prisons and fortresses share certain architectural similarties; but do not share purposes' situation...

So what? (1, Flamebait)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299443)

This is what I think Blizz/Activision will say if you complain. What are you gonna do, go play another game? Even though they are losing subscribers, they have enough that they really don't care. I don't play WoW, nor do I even like it, but I have some relatives who are so addicted to it that Blizzard executives could break into their house and rape their children, and they would give it a pass. This is meaningless on that scale.

Re:So what? (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299985)

Exactly. As every user has read the TOS which they agreed to (*snickers*), they should know that they can't hold Blizzard reliable anyway...additionally, the "Acknowledgments" section sounds a like an interesting butt rape to me...well, not much worse then many other licenses, though.

Backmasked Message? (3, Interesting)

trevc (1471197) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299695)

If you look at the JPEGs in a mirror you can see a hidden message "Hello, hunters. Congratulations. You've just discovered the secret message. Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the funny farm, Chalfont."

Money Talks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299711)

At some point we are going to start showing a little respect for ourselves as consumers, and stop supporting companies like this, right?

These companies know they can do pretty much whatever they want, because we're all just a bunch of consumer whores anymore.
Money talks. Stop buying their crap.

Re:Money Talks... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299935)

At some point we are going to start showing a little respect for ourselves as consumers, and stop supporting companies like this, right?

Wrong, unfortunately.

That will never happen. Shit, I thought it might when companies started controlling what you're allowed to run on your own device and prohibiting things that were "inconvenient" to their business model, but no... people line up to buy that shit. I thought it might happen when companies installed rootkits on people's computers, but no, people continued to buy things from the same company.

There IS no level of abuse that people won't accept if the toy is shiny enough.

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299767)

I would have encoded that info into the game a long time ago. I was looking at the bot situation in wows early days and thought to myself that there should be some details encoded into the screen that would allow Blizzard to track back to the account.

It would not take much at all. There were several areas of the screen that would lend its self to encoding information. I am sure you could do it with just a few bytes of information. Enough bytes to indicate account ID index (3 bytes) and a small date (2 bytes). You could encode this in as little as 2 pixels on the screen (but it would stand out). Something like this could be encoded into border patterns on the edge of controls and would be almost invisible.

I know you can customize the heck out of the display, but this would catch a lot people.

Questionable (1)

ptresadern (1882962) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299775)

Okay, so there's some pattern that shows up against a completely untextured view of the world. How would they recover such a faint watermark from an ordinary view of the world, complete with complex textures in the background? For that sort of thing, you need a copy of the image without the watermark so that you can take the difference between the two, and that doesn't seem to be the case here. And if you wanted to covertly record someone's data, why go to this effort when you could just send it to your server without telling them?

Re:Questionable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299933)

And if you wanted to covertly record someone's data, why go to this effort when you could just send it to your server without telling them?

Blizzard/Activision/whoever is really, really picky about people running private WoW servers. The point is, they might well not control the server to which the client is connecting. But, if a player is posting screenshots to brag about the l33t cust0m 53rv3r he's connected to, the client might watermark enough data for Blizzard's aching-for-action legal team to make a case against the person running the server. If they could get any worthwhile data out of people this way, they've been getting away with it using the very client they're using, right under their noses, for four years now without anyone noticing. Sneaky.

Re:Questionable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300113)

Okay, so there's some pattern that shows up against a completely untextured view of the world. How would they recover such a faint watermark from an ordinary view of the world, complete with complex textures in the background? For that sort of thing, you need a copy of the image without the watermark so that you can take the difference between the two, and that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Yes, if this were 1900 and nobody had invented signal processing, you'd indeed have to do that. Since then, we've learned quite a bit, and extracting a repeated pattern from an unknown but uncorrelated background noise isn't a problem.

And if you wanted to covertly record someone's data, why go to this effort when you could just send it to your server without telling them?

Really? Can't think of anything? Like people playing with no network connection to blizzard to foil just such mechanism, and posting screenshots online?

Re:Questionable (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300221)

Actually, I'm pretty sure all you'd need is a couple of screenshots with the watermark in. If you know the location of the watermark, you can start building the information out of just one, and two or three would give you enough.

And if someone posts a screenshot of them playing on a private server, or of them botting on a real server on a different website where their account name doesn't match, how on earth would you link that to an active player without something in the image?

Re:Questionable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300237)

Clearly Blizzard knows exactly where in the image to look for the data, even if it isn't visible to the human eye on anything but an untextured background with a lossy compression. (It's likely still there in the non-compressed formats, just not visible. This is a known issue with watermarks.) So they'd just run the picture through their decode function and get cleartext out, no problem there.

As for why? Because not everyone uses the official blizzard servers, and because say people using bots and screenshotting for botting tutorials might use the official servers but at the time Blizzard wouldn't know they were doing anything bad... but when they find their screenshots it would be trivial to track them down.

ha! (-1, Troll)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299889)

Stuttering John: Douchebag says "what?"

Blizzard: What?

Why not just email Mike Morhaime (2)

orodos (2726891) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299915)

and ask him wtf is going on? MMorhaime@blizzard.com

Another reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41299949)

to play GW2.

Screw Actizard, contact privacy@blizzard.com (2, Interesting)

dasacc22 (1830082) | more than 2 years ago | (#41299999)

Got fed up with all the BS and emailed privacy@blizzard.com to have my account and all my games perma-deleted from their system. Took an untold number of weeks for them to finally follow through on it but I'm now no longer a zard-tard.

Doesn't look like many slashdotters here care, but if you actually do then claim your info back and stop affiliating with this once decent company.

None of this information would be a problem (0)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300063)

As long as it doesn't have the address of your parents basement, I see nothing to worry about.

Makes Sense... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300069)

If someone ever actually manages to find Mankrik's wife, they need to know who and when so they can send the prize.

True - First Hand experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41300215)

Posting anon for obvious reasons.

I recently sold my Blizzard account.

I sold it in a famous Brazilian auction site (Mercado Livre). I didn't include and personal info (obviously) in the ad, and my login ID/password and e-mail are vastly different from those registered with Blizzard.

Somehow, BEFORE THE AUCTION ENDED, thus before the buyer tried to log-in from his IP, I received an e-mail from Blizzard along the lines of "we already noticed you're trying to sell your account"

Well, fuck you, Blizzard. You were too late!! The sale went without a hitch and the buyer never reported any issues (he even added the Android authenticator).

Screw their overprotective ToS. I no longer care for their DRM-laden games, so I passed it along. No, I didn't make tons of money, but at least I made someone happy and screwed Blizzard some.

Seems well within their rights (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#41300231)

The only people who'd need to worry are those exploiting the game who've distorted their toon names thinking that's all they need to do hide their identities.

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