The Hidden Information Buried In Your World Of Warcraft Screenshots

It turns out that there's a lot more information captured in a World of Warcraft screenshot than most players would ever think to look for.

A user at OwnedCore unearthed the invisible watermarks, which then spilled forth onto Reddit. The gist is that a screenshot taken inside World of Warcraft with its screenshot function includes a certain amount of embedded information in a repeating pattern. The information includes an account ID, realm (server) information and a timestamp.

Some users, like the original poster at OwnedCore, are concerned about the privacy ramifications of watermark information floating around the internet. While no password or private data are embedded in the image, according to the original poster, a particularly dedicated person could look at the images and link several alts together, or determine a pattern of individual user behaviour. The information in the images is more useful to Blizzard, who could theoretically use the information data in the screenshots to trace TOS-breaking behaviour or leaks of material under an NDA back to the source account.

Kotaku asked Blizzard for a comment but as of yet have had no response. We'll update if we hear back.

In the meantime, if you're curious about your own screenshots, finding the watermark is fairly straightforward. There are directions available for looking at images using IrfanView, a free image editing program, to sharpen a screenshot to the point where the watermark is visible as an artifact. For best results, the image needs to be as close to white as possible. Using this base image, a few minutes tweaking sharpness and light filters in Photoshop yielded some surprisingly cool-looking variations. (For best results, a black layer set to "hard mix" will make a watermark underneath it pop.)

Looking inside your screenshots [OwnedCore, via Reddit]


Comments

    scandal alert.

    I uset to love Blizzard and their games, the last 6-12months i've just gone off them so much ....

      Yep i was the same.. Jesus Diablo 2 got me through high school.... Now they have really fallen from grace....

    I'm torn.

    On one hand, there's the privacy issue, but on the other - fuck is that smart.

      Haha yeah, pretty awesome idea. Wonder how long it has been in place.

      I'm mainly upset about the fact they don't warn you they do this.

    You would figure data miners would spot this years ago.. amazing and extremely unsettling what were Blizzard trying to accomplish? viewing legitimiacy of screenshots for competitions?

      Tracking down pirated servers, tracking down people publishing screenshots boasting their exploits, tracking down (and proving) harassment, I could go on and on why they did this for good reason.

      Trace TOS-breaking behaviour or leaks of material under an NDA back to the source account.

      Very smart Blizzard

    Get an authenticator, if you can afford to buy the game, pay for an internet connection, buy a pc, pay electricity to run the pc and afford a monthly sub, you can afford an authenticator OR a free app for your iPhone / Android device.

    But wait... you don't have to, because this has zero ramifications to WoW players.

    "according to the original poster, a particularly dedicated person could look at the images and link several alts together, or determine a pattern of individual user behaviour."

    I challenge anybody to summarize any number of reasons, why this is worrying.

      It's more its applications for non-gaming.

      Would you be comfortable with all images taken via phone / digital camera / screenshots having these 'infostamps' plastered all over it without your knowledge?

      I know a number of female gamers who run alts on a variety of games to get away from the constant and demoralising behaviour from some male gamers.
      Inevitably , the choices boil down to ignore, leave, or retaliate. If they choose the latter, there are some who see it as personal crusade to destroy the person who slighted their 'honour' - yeah, that made me snigger too.
      Some of them have got disconcertingly close to getting personal information of these women through a variety of means, but it has always been by being able to cross reference information that should not be readily available to the general public.
      Whilst this instance, by itself, does not pinpoint personal info, it provides enough data for a determined stalker/loser to continue their harrassment against another, no matter what alt or server they fled to.

      As any analyst will tell you, it is often a collection of information that gives the full picture, and this gives quite a bit of info away.
      If you need more reasons, go ask your wife/gf/daughter how she'd feel if someone persistently and obsessively stalked her online.

        Challenge accepted you say.

        Fair point, however in this case, the female in question should simply register her account under a new email address and stop posting screenshots of her toons.

          You call that an acceptable solution?

          I think the bigger problem is that they didn't let their customers know they were doing this. Essentially meaning they were intentionally causing their customers to unknowingly post information about themselves on the internet whenever they post a screen shot.

    Because it has the email linked to the account in it, which happens to be half your login details?
    Blizzards security might be good, but the email the person is using may not have as much security, so if a hacker can find an exploit to get into the account's email, they can request a password reset and then accept the confirmation email?

    Good enough for the challenge?

      Having a compromised email address still doesn't allow the hacker to change anything in your wow account if you have an authenticator. I've recently secured my main email by linking it to my phone too, so that is now safe also. Hackers aren't likely to waste time on cracking my stuff, so feeling secure right here :)

      It is account id which is a number that is only meaningful internally to blizzard to identify the account. It is seperate to the email address that is used as the account name that the user knows and uses to log in.

    BTW, the 2 times i tried to buy an authenticator last year, they were currently out of stock, and not everyone has a smartphone.
    What blizzard SHOULD have done for the release of Cataclysm was package one with the game....

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