Calling it a "truly disappointing" mistake, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has apologized directly to those whose email addresses it exposed in a reply concerning Blizzard's now-abandoned plans to require forum members to use their real names.
The reply, sent to all who were on a list of about 1,000 who complained about Blizzard to the ESRB, called it "an unfortunate error by one of our employees. ... It was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry."
The mistake was apparently made when someone responding to the outcry chose reply-all in the response email, circulating the email addresses of all who had written in. The ESRB has a history as a strong backer of online privacy, notably through its 11-year-old Privacy Online program, making this an especially embarrassing gaffe.
The ESRB provided a copy of the apology to Kotaku. Here is its full text:
Yesterday we sent an e-mail to a number of consumers who wrote to us in recent days expressing their concern with respect to Blizzard's Real ID program. Given the large number of messages we received, we decided to respond with a mass e-mail so those who'd written us would receive our response as quickly as possible - rather than responding to each message individually, as is our usual practice.
Through an unfortunate error by one of our employees, some recipients were able to see the e-mail addresses of others who wrote on the same issue. Needless to say, it was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry. Those who write to ESRB to express their views expect and deserve to have their contact and personal information protected. In this case, we failed to do so and are doing everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future.
The fact that our message addressed individuals' concerns with respect to their privacy underscores how truly disappointing a mistake this was on our part. We work with companies to ensure they are handling people's private information with confidentiality, care and respect. It is only right that we set a good example and do no less ourselves.
We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by this error and appreciate their understanding.
Entertainment Software Rating Board
And here is a statement to the public on the matter, by ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi:
In our effort to respond quickly to the thousands of gamers who wrote to the ESRB, we inadvertently revealed a limited number of recipients' e-mail addresses in our reply. This was both unfortunate and regrettable, and for that we sincerely apologize to all those who were affected. They deserve to trust that their information will be handled with the same confidentiality, care and respect that we require of companies that display our Privacy Online seal. We take this issue seriously and are doing everything we can to ensure it does not happen again in the future.