Saturday, July 9, 2011

he's the devil in disguise, a snake with blue eyes, and he only comes out at night

Admittedly, the original Tweet caught my attention, but as far as the Air Force article it mentions, it's far less invasive. It was less "hijacked" and more "Can I ask them some questions?"

But it seems the questions were answered correctly, because the general in question logged his son's avatar off, and then flew out to meet with the Air Force department responsible for owning MyBase in Second Life.

This sounds like the kind of innovation Second Life should be involved with. Now, granted, because they deal with real places and occasionally real names, and definitely classified material, MyBase is sectioned off from the rest of SL. Translation: you can't get there from here. But where they are, and where they're going, is fascinating in terms of actual training happening on the grid, that is then duplicated on the ground.

Meanwhile, an unnerving issue has come up for users of the new service Google+. I, like many in Second Life, got invited, and accepted, and now have an account.

But there's apparently a hitch...and the hitch doesn't make a lot of sense.

From Gmail's Terms of Service:
When you sign up for a Google account, we ask you for personal information. We may combine the information you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services. For certain services, we may give you the opportunity to opt out of combining such information. You can use the Google Dashboard to learn more about the information associated with your Account.
There's another section from there I want to quote:
5. Use of the Services by you

5.1 In order to access certain Services, you may be required to provide information about yourself (such as identification or contact details) as part of the registration process for the Service, or as part of your continued use of the Services. You agree that any registration information you give to Google will always be accurate, correct and up to date.
There's also this:
20. General legal terms

20.2 The Terms constitute the whole legal agreement between you and Google and govern your use of the Services (but excluding any services which Google may provide to you under a separate written agreement), and completely replace any prior agreements between you and Google in relation to the Services.
Fair as far as it goes, right?

Essentially: provide identifying information; maintain that identifying information; understand that they may be retrieving information on you from a number of Google-aligned services you may encounter as part of, or not as part of, Gmail; and Google agrees that these are their Terms of Service, unless another service they provide has separate terms.

That last one is the catch.

The Terms of Service from Google+ are slightly different, in that they're hosted under the general Google banner. They also go more places, so let's start first with a privacy clause from their ToS:
In order to use the Google +1 button, you need to have a public Google Profile visible to the world, which at a minimum includes the name you chose for the profile. That name will be used across Google services and in some cases it may replace another name you’ve used when sharing content under your Google Account. We may display your Google profile identity to people who have your email address or other identifying information.
Still okay, as far as it goes, but again to translate: what that means is that if you choose one name for Google+, and you have another name somewhere else, and they determine your content is linked, your Google+ name will dominate.

Not a large deal for some of us, but according to thinq it's getting grimmer on an hourly basis. Why? Because of two provisions in their Community Standards, which has nothing to do with their official Terms of Service--for any service. Here's the first passage:
Your profile should represent you. We don't allow impersonation of others or other behavior that is misleading or intended to be misleading. If you believe that another user is impersonating you with a Google profile, please go to the profile in question, click Report a profile, and select the appropriate radio button. Learn more about reporting impersonation.
And here's the second:
Display Name
To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family, or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of these would be acceptable. Learn more about your name and Google Profiles.
Now, I'm in a somewhat tenuous position here. While "Emilly Orr" is not my full legal birth name, there are people who call me by that name in my real life. By pseudonymic rules--and especially that it's been ongoing for the past six years--that means it is an established alternate name, like a "writing as" name or a "known as" name. It's also a name I have signed legally binding documents in (for the Picture Production Company, among others). If I've made it my legal name by sign of contract, and I'm known by it to friends and family, that makes it a binding legal alternate name. At least as far as I understand contract law. Am I wrong?

There's also an interesting uprising regarding Google in general from the professional photographers' community, namely that Google is granting themselves exclusive rights to professionally produced content that isn't theirs.

Let me repeat that in legalese:
11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.
Basically, they've now bracketed the evil mentioned in the blog entry on the 6th by saying 'but the content is still yours, too' and 'we can't sell it, we can just use it'. Which is still dilution of copyright, isn't it? And isn't that what got GeoCities in trouble, lo these many decades ago, when Yahoo bought it out?

There's another angle on "pseudonymity" from Sarah Stokely's blog (though I also like Geek Feminism's post on anti-pseudonym bingo).

Ultimately, I have no idea how things are going to shake out. I, like Opensource Obscure, could be banned from Google+. Which, considering I haven't figured out precisely how I'm going to make use of it, doesn't have more than momentary impact on my consciousness--at least currently.

Because that's an honest question: I use Gmail for email and chat; Skype for voice and conference chat; Twitter for instant updates; Tumblr for picture posts or reblogging chosen content; and Fancy for the liking of things.

Why do I need Google+ again? I guess we'll see if Google needs me first.


Winter said...

The concern I've got, is that Picasa and Blogger are part of the Google family, as is Youtube. And their grand desire to link up all-things-google under your Google! account...

You guessed it, every blogger using a pen-name on blogger is potentially, I repeat POTENTIALLY affected. Every photographer using picasa, every artist using a stage name on YouTube.

A well established internet personality like Daxflame, or Merton... or Banksy? But even more, how will this affect ACTORS?

Is Carlos Irwin Estévez the person you want to find? or Charlie Sheen?

I'm not a lawyer, and I think people's "call for lawsuits" is just ridiculous and unlikely to have any sort of a chance.

But it begs a larger question for me, about Google's "Don't be evil" mantra, and this reminds me a lot of the "Your world, Your Imagination" phase ending at Second Life.

I think that avatars, screen names, and isolated identities, inspired by movies like Hackers and the Matrix ("the other life is lived on the internet, where you go by the hacker name 'neo'")... are quickly being transformed from an official perspective into what Max Headroom called "Blanks", people living off the grid without documentation of any kind.

I think we're seen by the big names (Facebook, and now Google) as sort of like Illegal Immigrants, or street punks, loitering around the 7-11, a nuisance to be chased off like rats.

Unfortunately, being "people hiding behind false (adopted / undocumented) identities" we become an easy target.

The biggest concern I have about all of this, is how many people in the gay and lesbian communities "change their names" or "go by" different names in the community than they do with their families. Of course.. we Transsexuals actually change our names, legally.. but will GooglePlus allow us to change our names? and will they allow us to remove "old" names we no longer want to be connected to?

Ideally we'd be able to create as many public facings as we want (so long as they're not deception. I don't want to pretend I'm Charlie Sheen, I just want to be the Me's that people know.

I lived with Izzy for something like 3 years. I doubt half the people in that house remember my real name.

Emilly Orr said...

It's true. And while I know it, I know you more as Winter, and you resonate better to Winter.

Does leave me pondering, though--what if I changed my legal name to match my SL name? It would then be my legal name, but who would I inform? Gmail wouldn't change. Blogger wouldn't change. Picasa wouldn't change. But I would have legally changed my name.

I still don't get this push for real name/real accountability. I am plenty accountable. Just because I don't want every random creep knowing my home address--and hey, isn't there a clause in Google's Community Standards about not giving out personally identifying information to anyone? Why, yes there is--now I'm suspect?

That has never, ever, made sense to me.

Winter said...

Well they say they'll accept a newspaper article, part of the legal name change process involves filing a notice in a paper.. that establishes a paper trail link.. "doing business as".

It's pretty inexpensive, and many places have newspapers dedicated JUST to that. (San Jose has one). you could take out a 10-20$ ad saying "so and so is doing business as Emilly Orr" and then it's legalized, legit, and above board.

THEN if Google refuses to acknowledge it.. well then we get into the realm of true evil, not accepting "Charlie Sheen" or allowing people who have performed legal name changes.

Emilly Orr said...

Would they count a newspaper article? I had that one published in the UK a while back...