Note: The below assumes innocence until proof of guilt, however I have no reason to assume that the actions of an outstanding member of the community like “John” here would make this up and then proceed to leave in the way he did. If anyone in CCP wishes to contact me regarding this, they can find my contact details and the relevant petition information fairly easily.
At the end of last month, one of our members left EVE, and later biomassed his character. I’m not going to mention his name out of respect for him and instead I will refer to him as “John”, as I know he wouldn’t want to be remember for this. Those of you who know who he was, will remember him as one of our most helpful members, making literally hundreds of wiki edits, hours upon hours of time explaining things on Mumble, and helping new players. In short, he was the model E-UNI member, always willing to share his knowledge to help others, and one of the few members I instantly awarded the Graduate title and medal.
It transpires that “John” had been temporarily banned from EVE as CCPs ‘Team Security’ had identified his actions as ‘suspect’ - he was a station trader, and a very good one at that, playing trade markets in EVE like a professional, using the common tools available, as well as custom built tools, but never automating anything to do with the EVE client himself - the closest he ever got was probably to create custom in-game-browser pages to streamline his workflow, meaning he would log into an alt, and update around 30 orders a minute for 10-20 minutes at a time.
Apparently this was enough to make it look like he was using some form of bot, which resulted in a 14 day ban on all of his accounts for “macro usage”. “John” then submitted a petition, questioning the ban, and providing the source code the the custom programs he created, as well as an outline on how they operated, and after 12 days was provided nothing in return other than a stock reply.
His request to escalate the petition was denied, and he was asked not to petition again. No ISK or assets were removed at this time, and it was stated that the ban was the first step of their 3-strike policy.
He then proceeded to liquidate his assets, and talked to one of the E-UNI directors, stating that: “If [CCP] convey a message that they want to punish success and disregard earnest amount of efforts a player put in this game, then I guess EVE is not the game for me... Sorry I won't be completing the articles I promised or update the wiki, I had great things planned out and many unfinished projects EvE-related, but I'm not motivated to finish them anymore. It's been very fun, good times flying with all you guys. E-UNI is great and has been great help for me... I loved the game, my chars are around 30M sp so it was a hard decision to make, but it has been made.”
He then transferred the remains of his ISK and assets to EVE University, left corp and then biomassed his character.
At 23:18:43 on January 17th, there was a corp donation of 317,732,017,621.60 ISK from “John”.
Yes. Three hundred and seventeen billion. That can buy a lot of skillbooks. Its enough to kick-start a market in a smallish region or run any number of E-UNI projects indefinitely or, at current market values, buy 600 PLEX.
Suffice to say we were surprised at the amount, and took actions to partition the ISK away somewhere safe, transferring the bulk of it to an alt corp.
We then immediately petitioned CCP to check the validity of such a large amount of ISK. Obviously we wanted to make sure it wasn’t the result of RMT, or anything else like that which would end up with the ISK being removed later on down the line, leaving E-UNI with a negative ISK balance.
Note: The EULA prevents a GM’s responses from being posted publicly, so I will only be able to
E-UNI Director Petition wrote:EVE University received a donation of over 317 billion isk this week [...] I have transferred the bulk of that ISK to this character [...].
Due to the size of the transfer, I wanted to double check that the isk was all legal, and not due to some illicit activity. The ISK will remain on this character and not be touched until we hear back from you.
We do not usually receive donations of this size, and would rather be safe then sorry. Thank you very much for your time.
Eight days later, we had a response, thanking us for bringing it to CCPs attention, and explaining that due to the ISK being related to a security matter, it has been confiscated.
We responded, with the obvious question:
E-UNI Director Petition wrote:I appreciate your time spent checking this for us. Not to be ungrateful, but are you absolutely sure that all of the ISK was illegitimate? There isn't some fraction that is legitimate that we could keep?
At time of writing, no response has been received.
I filed a separate petition to be absolutely sure, wanting to confirm the reason behind the ISK removal:
Kelduum’s Petition wrote:Hi,
Can I get a confirmation that a total of 317,732,017,621.60 ISK was removed due to a 'security matter' related to a now Ex-member of EVE University, who had been temp-banned for apparent market botting?
I understand that you may not be able to confirm some of this, however I want to ensure that the actions being claimed are correct.
The response, some days later, confirmed the removal of the ISK, and stated that it came from “illegitimate activities” and was therefore a security matter. I responded.
Kelduum’s Petition wrote:Thank you for the confirmation.
I'm lead to believe that “John” was temporarily banned for something akin to using a market bot, however he professed his innocence. Obviously this is for you to decide, and hes now biomassed his character, so this isn't going to change.
While in E-UNI, he was an upstanding member, editing our wiki and posting well, as well as both attending and teaching classes. basically a good member of the community.
He was also the guy you would ask about market trading, and we'd often see him around chatting on voice comms.
I can see that you may have assumed he was botting (whether he was or not I can't dispute as I have no proof either way) - however I'm wondering why the ISK was left with him at that time, and then later removed?
Not to mention that it's a sizable amount of ISK to remove from the economy and game.
Twenty four hours later, a response came stating that none of this can be discussed with a third party, despite it being myself who received the ISK (under the E-UNI organization) and therefore not wholly related to a third party.
It was also mentioned that a donation like this would have eventually been investigated anyway, although it is unclear how long that would have taken.
At this point I was curious under what reason the ISK had been left with “John”, only to be removed when he donated it elsewhere and deleted his characters. Surely if CCP’s processes include temporary bans before removing any ill-gotten gains, they would not then remove the ISK later on unless the actions continued.
Kelduum’s Petition wrote:I understand its not something you can discuss as it involves a third party, and I'm not even able to have the third party ask any more as he has cancelled his accounts and biomassed his characters.
Hypothetically however, if a player was temp-banned for some time due to botting-like activity, would the ISK not have been investigated and cleared at that point when that player was temp-banned?
The response, two days later, was that these matters cannot be discussed at all, and the petition was closed without me having a chance to reply and ask for it to be escalated and looked at by someone else.
I filed a second petition under a different category, asking for the previous one to be reopened and escalated - at this point I was about removal of the ISK without any clear reasoning of doing so, other than “it came from someone who had been temp-banned” and looking to communicate with someone else about this in an attempt to get something other than canned responses.
The petition was answered by the same CCP member, with another canned response, stating that there is no escalation for security matters and that they operate separately from customer support, the matter had been brought to the attention of their Director of Security, and to respond if I have any questions or concerns.
And then, its no longer about the ISK.
I started to become quite worried. The dialogue at this point suggests that the security team are operating with no oversight at all, and implies that there is no auditing or checks and balances for their actions, especially as there is no recourse for anyone who wishes to dispute their claims.
My response (edited to remove items which may be under NDA) was:
Kelduum’s Petition wrote:My concerns are as follows:
1. The player where it originated quit quite publicly after returning from his ban, and biomassed his character as he felt he was unfairly 'punished for being too good' (paraphrasing). This is common knowledge in the corporation, and he was both an "Enabler" and "Instigator" to use CCP Seagull's terms.
2. It is also known within management that he donated all his ISK to the corporation before he left, and that there was a lot of it, in the region of hundreds of billions.
3. It seems unusual that the whole balance was removed rather than a portion which, for example, had been purchased via RMT or similar methods. However, removal under this way would have left a negative balance anyway.
4. Those same management players have been asking the same questions I have - if he was already punished, why was the ISK not removed at that time, rather than 1 week later, after we enquired as to its validity?
5. It's only a matter of time before the player-base find out about this, and it is going to raise more questions. Not removing the ISK at the time suggests that it was obtained legally, and that instead "CCP doesn't want E-UNI to have the money" for some reason.
Today, six days later, the response comes that the CCP representative is not worried about how this would look to anyone, and stands by the claim that the ISK was obtained illegitimately, despite claims and information suggesting otherwise.
No answers at all to my concerns. No escalation path. No way of querying the reasons why the ISK was disappeared after being left alone for 3 weeks and then donated after all of “Johns” characters were deleted, and no recourse at all.
All my attempts so far have been either ignored, blocked or referred back to the same location.
So, the security team are in charge of everything to do with security, and will happily remove ISK from players, with no form of recourse or escalation path in the event of a false positive - which its suggested they have never had one, likely as they apparently don’t allow anyone to dispute their actions.
And, they will apparently also take ISK from someone who received it if the sender was claimed to have been involved in something illegitimate. Again, no proof or information need be provided as they are infallible.
So, go out, and be successful in EVE. Just don’t be so successful that CCP decide you’re being too good at EVE, and then decide to tell you you can’t play in the sandbox that particular way any more, even if you weren't aware you had been doing anything wrong.
Quoting from the thread on the EVE forums:
CCP Sreegs wrote:There are a number of things wrong with the assertions being made in other forums, which is a topic I'm sure the author of these posts is familiar with because we discussed them prior to his rather selective reporting of the incident. Here's the facts as we need be concerned from an eve perspective:
1) John was botting. That is not even close to in dispute.
2) We committed an error in not removing the isk before it got to EVE-U. However we did rectify this problem and our logs show that it was discussed and approved prior to either them receiving the isk or petitioning. We apologized to EVE-U however the petition was escalated as high as it could be and the decision remained. We cannot typically share this information with them as it's really none of their business.
3) The only authority higher than the Director of Security for these complaints is the Executive Producer and then the CEO. This is a higher level of escalation than the Customer Service arm and IA automatically looks at our work. I'm not sure why we feel we should be able to escalate higher than the highest reasonable authority but the fact is that this team operates with significant oversight. We believe the issue here to be more that this particular CSM feels he isn't in the loop, something which is quite frankly the only proper way to do business in a unit that handles secrets.
Frankly we're a bit disturbed by the allegations made here given that the person in question waited until they exhausted every resource possible prior to posting this then lamented the lack of an escalation path. Not getting the answer you like isn't a lack of an escalation path and never will be.
I'd love to know what I was selectively reporting exactly, barring the things I cant post, but still...
Replying to each of the points:
1. Then all we needed to be told was "The ISK came from botting". I had asked if this was the case, and was bushed off repeatedly, being told that "its nothing to do with you", despite us actually having the ISK. In fact, this has happened a couple of times in the past when we have had donations which came from botting or RMT, and as the CEO I received a courteous mail outlining what had happened and why the ISK went missing.
2.a) The only words which could be construed as an apology were related to the one week response in the original petition. At no point has an apology for not removing the ISK earlier been made. I'd love to post the text of the petitions and/or other things, but that would get me banned.
2.b) The petition was responded to by one member of CCP staff, at one level, and on asking for it to be escalated, was told there is no escalation at all for the security team. As mentioned, I asked around if anyone knew of another escalation path, and reached dead ends, and statements that there is literally no higher authority than themselves. Again, I can't post this proof.
3. At no point was this explained, anywhere, by anyone. If it had been, then it could of been handled quietly. I'll leave the rest of that section detailing that members of the security team being oversight for the security team as exercise for the reader to determine if they think this is a good idea or not.
Finally, not getting any answer is what causes people to look for an escalation path, at which point being told there is no higher authority (which is now revealed to have been a falsehood) is what causes unnecessary drama like this.
The missing apology, and the missing explanation were what was being asked for. Its nice to have them, finally.