As of mid-2009, the creators of World of Warcraft were retaining the IP histories of its users indefinitely and was drawing the lines about what information about its players that it would -- or could -- reveal to law enforcement personnel, according to a document released on Friday.
The ins and outs of how Blizzard Entertainment would respond to requests about its players from the authorities is broken down in an 18-page PDF included in a document dump leaked online on Friday by the activisits/rabble-rousers AntiSec. The documents were obtained from the computer of a cybercrime expert in the California Department of Justice, according to Antisec, as "part of our ongoing effort to expose and humiliate our white hat enemies".
The WoW law enforcement guide is detailed enough that appears to be the real thing, though we've reached out to Blizzard to confirm. The guidelines it stipulates may be active now, though it is impossible to say, given that the file is two years old.
The supposed Blizzard document is formally titled "Law Enforcement Guide to Requests for Information" and was last updated on July 9, 2009. It introduces law enforcement personnel to what World of Warcraft is and acknowledges that "Although the ability to communicate in-game makes Blizzard's games more enjoyable, Blizzard recognises that some users may abuse this functionality to engage in unlawful activity."
Blizzard never details which types of crimes law enforcement people might think are happening among WoW players, but they acknowledge that they get more law enforcement requests for that game than their others (bear in mind, of course, that this guide was from 2009, before StarCraft II was released).
There isn't much game jargon in the guide. The authors don't delve deeply into WoW lore for the cops, but one element of the game is relevant, according to page 5:
Players on each WoW server are separated into two separate factions: Alliance and Horde. For purposes of law enforcement requests, this is noteworthy only because neither faction can communicate in-game with any member of the other faction. On certain servers, however, a single account can create characters belonging to each faction.
The Blizzard guide's authors state that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act governs Blizzard's ability to disclose information about its players, most of which it will provide if issued a subpoenas, court orders and search warrants. Of course, that information has to be available, which is not guaranteed, not even for something like WoW which exists entirely on a computer.
There are a few pieces of information about WoW gamers that aren't available to the public but that Blizzard would be able to give out, according to the guide. In response to a subpoena the company would be able to provide "identity and log-in information", "but requires a court order to disclose additional user records, or search warrant to authorise disclosure of any online communications ('player chat')."
"For example, if law enforcement seeks ongoing information about a user's IP address each time they log-in to their account, or the real-time monitoring of player chat, the law would require a pen register/trap and trace order in the first instance, and a Title III Wiretap Order in the latter.
In this 2009 document, the guide writer says that, for appropriate legal requests, they would be able to provide a player's user information:
This information includes: account holders first and last name and address; connection records (including records of session times and durations); length of service (including start date) and types of service(s) utilized; IP address; account name; character name(s); and means of payment (including any credit card or bank account number).
That information is held "indefinitely," according to the guide, whether the player is active or inactive.
Regarding IP addresses:
Blizzard may produce historic IP logs in response to a grand jury or administrative subpoena under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2).
Any active or inactive user's IP log is retained "indefinitely" by Blizzard, "dating back to March 1, 2009."
Private messages between players are only held for 180 days, according to theguide.
The guide also indicates that Blizzard would be able to release Player Chat logs to law enforcement officials and even provides an example of a filing, but it does not state how long it stores those chat logs.
Finally, the guide also states that Blizzard will release any user info, "including user identity, log-in, chat messages and other information voluntarily to a federal, state, or local governmental entity when Blizzard believes in good faith that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires such disclosure without delay."
It's not clear how Blizzard's policies would have changed in the two years since this guide was created.
Blizzard did not reply to a request for comment, but if they do, we'll update this story.