Blizzard says it will "vigorously defend itself" against claims that it does not adequately safeguard its customers' data unless they pay extra for a Battle.net authenticator.
World of Warcraft studio Blizzard Entertainment was hit with a class action lawsuit late last week over allegations of "deceptive upselling" relating to its Battle.net authenticators. The suit claims that Blizzard and its parent company Activision Blizzard fail to inform consumers that they "must" purchase additional products - the authenticators - in order to ensure that their data is adequately secured on Blizzard's servers.
"Blizzard requires all of its customers to establish accounts with its online gaming service, Battle.net, but it fails to disclose to consumers, prior to purchase, that they'll need additional products called authenticators to keep information stored in these accounts safe," attorney Hank Bates of law firm Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman PLLC said in a statement. "Even though the company frequently receives complaints about accounts being hacked, it simply tells the customer to attach an authenticator to their account. Blizzard doesn't inform people about this requirement when they purchase the game, and that amounts to a deceptive trade practice."
The suit also accuses Blizzard of "negligence" for failing to maintain adequate levels of security for its customer base, which "compromised millions of customers' email addresses, passwords, answers to personal security questions, and other items of sensitive information."
Blizzard, unsurprisingly, dismissed the allegations outright. "The suit's claim that we didn't properly notify players regarding the August 2012 security breach is not true. Not only did Blizzard act quickly to provide information to the public about the situation, we explained the actions we were taking and let players know how the incident affected them, including the fact that no names, credit card numbers, or other sensitive financial information was disclosed," the studio said.
The claim that an authenticator is required to maintain security is also "completely untrue and apparently based on a misunderstanding of the authenticator's purpose," it continued, clarifying that "the Battle.net Authenticator is an optional tool that players can use to further protect their Battle.net accounts in the event that their login credentials are compromised outside of Blizzard's network infrastructure."
"Many players have voiced strong approval for our security-related efforts," it said. "Blizzard deeply appreciates the outpouring of support it has received from its players related to the frivolous claims in this particular suit."
The lawsuit claims that Blizzard has earned $26 million from authenticator sales alone. The lead plaintiff in the case, Benjamin Bell, is seeking unspecified damages as well as an injunction preventing Blizzard from charging additional post-purchase costs to its customers and requiring them to sign up to its Battle.net service.