Blizzard Screenshot Identification Embedding

Started by Shadowwolf, September 13, 2012, 02:29:28 PM

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Just in case anyone heard, this has been an issue that Koth pointed out to me recently and has been making its way around the net.

To summarize in non-technical terms, when you take a screenshot in JPG format via the Warcraft client, as in hitting "Print Screen" or if you mapped it to a different key, if the settings are default, meaning you never modified it to adjust quality, etc, then Blizzard embeds extra information into the image.

The information is mostly account number, realm ID, char name, and some other things. The account number, while it seems like a concern really isnt too much to worry about right now because its internal and only usable by Blizzard. Its basically the old information before authentication system went into effect.

Primarily, this is used for checking to see if people are violating the TOS for Beta access. Basically someone getting Beta privileges before most others, taking a ton of screenshots and sharing them on the web.

It is a concern to a point about privacy, and how your data is used by Blizzard, but when you play WoW, you agree to the terms which state that they have the right to do these sort of things if they want.

Bypass / Avoidance Info

If you want to simply bypass this issue altogether, you can use a 3rd party screenshot tool. Fraps is the common one and there are others out there, Steam also does it if you add WoW as a "Non-Steam Game". Using a 3rd party software for all your captures will bypass this added information from being added into the screenshot.

If you choose not to use 3rd party software, you are still in luck. If you want to keep screenshots in JPG format, simply set the quality to max, the added data doesnt get added to high quality captures.

/console SET screenshotQuality "10"

Or, you can simply change the screenshot format to TGA instead of JPG which is actually a higher quality capture but also takes up more space per file.

/console screenshotFormat tga

You can also edit your file in a text editor and look for and edit or add the following lines:

Code  lua Select
SET screenshotFormat "f"
SET screenshotQuality "q"

Where f is the format (jpg or tga) and q is the quality (1-10) making sure to place the values within the quotes.

Again, the method used to decipher the data in the files is not very easy to do nor has anyone so far been able to create a program that does it with 100% accuracy and the data therein is mostly only usable by Blizzard themselves. If you're like me though you probably don't want anyone snooping around or adding things to any of your files regardless of the info they are adding or how easy it is to view.  ;)
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"A flute with no holes is not a flute, and a donut with no hole is a danish" - Chevy Chase as Ty Webb in Caddyshack
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."- Dr. Suess


Here is a quick How-to on configuring World of Warcraft to launch with the Steam overlay.

Step 1:

Open the Steam client select the "Games" menu at the top. Choose the "Add a non-Steam game to my library...".


Step 2:

The next window will take some time to populate as it is going to search your computer for all the games it can find installed. It *should* find World of Warcraft like you see here on mine. If it does, check the box to the left of World of Warcraft on the list, and select "Add Selected Programs".

If you cannot find World of Warcraft in the list anywhere, select the "Browse". You will then have to navigate to the World of Warcraft directory where WoW is installed and select either the wow.exe, wow-64.exe or World of Warcraft Launcher.exe. Any of these 3 will work unless you run a 32-bit system, then wow-64.exe is not the right choice. To be safe you should choose the launcher because it will select the proper executable for you when you start it up.


Step 3:

If you did the above correctly, WoW should show up in your Library listing. You can also add an easy shortcut on your desktop to have it launch with Steam by right-clicking the game and selecting "Create Desktop Shortcut". You should make sure you delete or rename any existing shortcuts on your desktop so you don't confuse yourself.

Come to the darkside, we have cookies.
"A flute with no holes is not a flute, and a donut with no hole is a danish" - Chevy Chase as Ty Webb in Caddyshack
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."- Dr. Suess


fwiw, many printers do something similar to every page you print out as well.  Tiny micro dots in a specific pattern so forensics could identify make, model, and in some cases, serial number of the printer that printed the page.  This way if authorities needed to tie a specific printer to a page that was supposedly printed by it, then it would be possible to do so.

Like Shadow said, it's not really too much to worry about but the saga of reverse engineering the patterns was pretty fascinating, from a technical standpoint.

Thanks for the great post about it, Shadow.  Well done, as usual. :)
No matter how often you refill the gene pool, there's always a shallow end.