Changes in Playonline Account Policy sign now

On the date of December 11th, 2007 malicious code was discovered on popular FFXI resource site that subjected users to a security exploit through Realplayer software. Through this website, persons able to manipulate the security exploit gained unauthorized access to over one hundred accounts, and were able to change relevant membership information resulting in the permanent transfer of these accounts, with the intent of sale or other use. Additionally, there seems to be a new, unrelated and unidentified threat, with a dramatic increase in the number of stolen accounts being reported every day. Unfortunately, due to Playonline account policies these players, who are the victims of a security exploit created through legitimate software, have almost zero recourse in recovering their rightful accounts. This petition is a proposal on changes that we as the players, and in many cases victims, rightfully deserve.

Problems: The Lack of a Reasonable Process of Account Recovery

Currently, players have close to zero options when their accounts are stolen. The only chance of recovery these victims have is to make an inquiry with Playonline Customer Service. However, under Playonline policy, these victims have no plausible way in which they can prove their valid ownership. Existing Playonline policies require information regarding a players name, address, and most importantly, credit card information. However, the first action taken with a compromised account is to change that very same information, creating a situation in which legitimate players are locked out of their accounts. The only records that players can possibly use in their defense are of complete irrelevance, specifically the policy requiring current credit card information. Proof of names, past addresses, and financial transactions even dating back for years is considered immaterial evidence and rendered useless. We, as players, have zero defense in this regard and are completely vulnerable to fraudulent activity.

Additionally, Playonline policies advise players to contact the local police and internet authorities for help, acknowledging that it is indeed a case of identity theft. However, having to rely on elaborate and drawn-out legal processes is simply not practical. Without a form of immediate recovery, compromised accounts can have their contents completely stripped before the original owner ever sees it again. Their characters, built up over years in most cases, can easily be destroyed within the time it takes to obtain a court-ordered subpoena. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the authorities will take the case into genuine consideration. Even though a case may fall under the legal definition of identity theft, authorities may (and often) question its validity because it is based on a game. Having to resort to legal processes that take substantial time, subjects our accounts to devastation, and subjugates us players to being mocked is both unreasonable and unfair.

Also, it is often the case during a request for help that Playonline Customer Service representatives impose an inconsistent and arbitrary standard upon the players. In many instances these same representatives are both belligerent and insulting towards those trying to find help. Rather than being treated respectfully, players are instead accused of using illegal third party-programs and in some cases, accused of selling their accounts to Real Money Traders. The representatives often seem to operate under the notion that their policies insulate them from having to provide service or decency to paying customers, especially when they believe that the victims themselves were a part of fraudulent or suspicious activity. Furthermore, requests to speak with supervising representatives are typically met with the response that theyre too busy, or that theyll just say the same thing I did. Follow-up calls from supervisors are non-existent even when they have been arranged and guaranteed by the representatives, lending even more to the uncooperative and hostile atmosphere that we players are subjected to. While some players do find help and are able to successfully retrieve their accounts, the inconsistency with representatives, in that they are either helpful or hurtful, is simply unexplainable. Allowing some players to re-obtain their accounts while leaving others victimized and snubbed is demoralizing to us all. This inexplicable discrimination as well as the extremes in attitudes from representatives is completely unacceptable. It seems quite obvious to us that our attempts, in the face of the only people who can possibly help us, are in vain.

The Playonline Agreement itself states:
[you cannot] rent, lease, loan, sell, sublicense, distribute, transmit or otherwise transfer the Software, your User or other account-related information (including, but not limited to, your User ID or password information) to any third party.

This leads to a very clear contradiction. When Playonline Representatives accuse us of selling our accounts, they are acknowledging that the terms of service have been breached, while at the same time refusing to do anything about it. This is blatant admission that the Playonline Agreement is not only unenforced, but that wrongful account transfers have zero significance or bearing to Playonline employees. Playonlines ease of access to accounts, its lack of resistance in changing personal information, and its employees negligence provide avenues for the very market that Square-Enix disallows, and protects malicious users that violate the Playonline Agreement.

Solutions: Fair Demands for Relief

Though the situation has worsens daily and an increasing number of players are losing their accounts, we feel that there is still a chance to make things right. Additionally, we believe that there are many, quite reasonable solutions for stronger account safeguards.

1. First, we respectfully, but rightfully, demand extra methods of protection in overseeing our accounts. We would like to see changes that allow us to provide prior history of addresses, credit card information, or some other type of proof over the phone. Since knowledge of the security exploit became public, the vast majority of players have advocated for the inclusion of more private safeguards, such as questions about a mothers maiden name, original Playonline/FFXI registration codes, or our own-pre-approved question. Having a valid method of identification that is known only to us, accessible only to Customer Service Representatives and inaccessible via our own computers would establish account privacy in the two safest locations possible: directly with the player or within the Playonline system. Implementing typical security measures found in other MMORPGs, credit cards, banks and virtually all other accounts guarding against identity fraud would provide us with a traceable, provable, and reliable method of protection.

2. Second, we respectfully, but rightfully, demand the fair return of the stolen accounts. The victims have unfairly lost their accounts due to circumstances in which they had no tenable link to. These victims should be allowed to show some form of past records, as stated above, in order to prove their legitimate ownership.

Implications and Final Thoughts

As we are now, many innocent players have lost their accounts through circumstances in which they were unknowingly attacked by malicious users and had no way to fight back. Though we have been able to generally isolate the Realplayer incident with strong community support, there are many players who are still reporting the theft of their accounts on a daily basis. This new threat is putting us all at risk, and even those using the highest levels of precaution have been attacked. The atmosphere within the general community has regressed from one of interest, exploration, and enjoyment over the new expansion to one of paranoia, vulnerability, and fear over losing their accounts. The ones responsible for the assaults on our accounts have been successful without being subject to any form of punishment, and will most certainly look for more avenues and more programs in which they can freely attack again. The Realplayer attacks came through the use of a reputable community site, legitimate media software (popularly used for over ten years), and a web-browser that is installed in every single instance of Microsoft Windows XP and Vista. Knowing that they were successful without repercussion, these malicious users will no doubt look for more loopholes and security exploits within the everyday software that we use. Knowing that we are powerless once compromised, they will never stop looking for ways to steal from us. The community has developed a lack of trust that continues to widen day by day, and is only worsened by the caustic attitudes of Playonline representatives. As we are now, no player truly feels safe, because we simply arent.

Square-Enix has committed itself in trying to eliminate the practices of Real Money Trader activities and has been extremely successful, removing several billions of gil from the economy and severely crippling RMT industries through their work. While we have always been thrilled to hear about the Special Task Forces latest accomplishments, we cannot help but express an equal amount of disappointment, disgust, and despair with the way Playonline treats us. Additionally, Playonline policies not only undermine Square Enixs end-goals of RMT elimination, but they also encourage the theft of our accounts. Commitment by Playonline instead needs to be parallel with other anti-RMT policies by shielding us, not exposing us. Better methods of theft prevention as well as account recovery would establish a powerful deterrence against those trying to sell compromised accounts. Through deterrence the sale of accounts, which Square-Enix strictly forbids, would have absolutely no basis on the internet market. Knowing that the original owner could re-obtain their account at any time, no person would ever wish to buy an account, and as a result, thieves would have zero financial gain from continuing their practice. Instead, the policies protect the thieves, provide them with a place to sell, and leave us open to harm.

We, as the players, are not interested in a radical change in Playonline policies. Rather, we are simply looking for a commitment in protecting our accounts, or rather, identities. While on the surface Final Fantasy XI is just a game, to us it is considerably more than that. For many of us FFXI has been a place to meet new people, build communities, and develop lasting friendships. For us, FFXI is a world in which were allowed to develop, maintain, and devote ourselves to our own individual identities. However, by not giving us a chance to recover our rightful characters and by not providing us with adequate means of protection, we are at the mercy of devious behavior. Moreover, by not giving us these changes, Playonline policies only serve to further the cause of Real Money Traders, and only encourage them to continue stealing. These policies provide them with an internet marketplace in knowing that once theyve stolen an account, it will be theirs forever, to use or sell as they wish. By not giving us the necessary change which we are pleading for, we as the players are being deprived of our hard work, characters, and identities.

Kisada of Quetzalcoatl

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Colette FrenchBy:
International PolicyIn:
Petition target:
Square-Enix, Inc.


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