Hold on to your tinfoil hats guys, because have we got a doozy for you. So, you know all those WoW screenshots you’ve been taking and then posting to Flickr, Facebook, your G+ account or whatever? Well, it turns out that since about 2008 you’ve been posting screencaps that include a watermark with pertinent player information encoded in it.
The watermark appears in the form of bars contains information such as the date and time of the screenshot, the server name, and the player location, as well as the server’s IP address. A WoW player going by the name Sendatsu recently posted his discovery of the watermark on the OwnedCore forums and asked for help in figuring out what the watermark was, and has expressed his concerns on the website.
“The contained information can be easily recovered and decrypted by hackers, which compromises the privacy and security of our accounts!” he wrote. “For example, someone could use this to identify which account holds which characters and perhaps stalk and annoy its user, or help perpetrators choose their phishing victims with a more targeted approach. Perhaps someone is already using this since the watermark has been around for at least four years already.“
And it goes on to address the fact that while Blizzard does warn players that they can gather information about computers being used to play the game, they never said anything about embedding watermarks into every screenshot made using the WoW print screen tool. At this point any WoW player who has taken a screenshot of the game could be affected by what many will likely feel is a breach of both security and trust.
If you’re interested in seeing what the code looks like, Sendatsu gives thorough directions in his forum post on how to get a peek at it.
**Correction** The embedded IP address is the server IP not the players personal IP address.