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Blizzard helps authorities track fugitive

Blizzard helped an Indiana sheriff track an allegedly drug-dealing, definitely WoW-playing fugitive to Canada. Sheriff's Deputy Matt Roberson, who used to play World of Warcraft, discovered that Alfred Hightower aka Rastlynn, was an avid player. So he contacted Blizzard with a request for help in locating his quarry. Three months later, Blizzard sent Roberson a package containing Rastlynn's IP address, billing address and other info. After finding out the fugitive's latitude and longitude from his IP, Roberson used Google Search to pinpoint Rastlynn's exact location. With the cooperation of Canadian authorities, Hightower has been deported and now awaits his fate in the U.S.

Usually it is Blizzard that is calling the police for help, as in the cases of:

But here, Blizzard cooperated with a request from authorities with no lives at stake and without being legally bound to do so. Also, his character name was not only provided to the police, but also published in the Kokomo online news publication. So, now we all know that Rastlynn the resto shaman has most definitely been naughty.

Should Blizzard have cooperated with authorities in this case? There was a warrant out for his arrest since 2007, but he was not actually convicted of a crime and presumably did not use WoW to commit his crimes. I can see the reasoning behind giving the information in this case, to stay friendly with law enforcement. But what about cases in other countries where the local laws infringe on their citizens' civil liberties?

For example, many countries don't have freedom of speech and will arrest those who voice subversive opinions, say against election results. Iranian protesters used Twitter to report on post-election activities and express their opinions, because most other online sources were more easily tracked -- and many died for their troubles. Would Blizzard comply with local government requests in cases such as this? (There are also many who argue that the war on drugs is an infringement on our liberties, but that's a discussion best left to other publications.)

I guess the lesson we need to learn from this is that Blizzard has a large amount of personal information about their active subscribers and are willing to share that info with law enforcement agencies. If you aren't wanted for any crimes or committing any in-game, it shouldn't worry you -- for now. But if you are a shady dealer running from the law, you may want to stay out of Azeroth.

[Thanks for the tip, Max!]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

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