Saturday, August 13, 2011

I could surely never know if what you say is true

(This is continued from part I.)

So, picking up where we left off--Lance's response to Kelley:

Kelley, if you go to "privacy options" of your profile, you can limit every single bit of it to be visible only to logged -in residents or even friends, and you can disable the feed completely.

The only thing that you cannot hide at all is your username/display name, and your rez date. If you don't even want other residents to be able to see that your account exists (and they really do not see anything else if you set your options right), what the beep are you doing on a social platform anyways?

And he's got a point there, too.

And then the fighting really started. From Kelley again:

For the Nth time, it is NOT a social platform. It is NOT a social network. It is a virtual world. Get that through your skull. They are nothing alike.

I don't care if you want to call it a social network, it does not meet the criteria or definition of being a social network. It is, and always will be a virtual world. The fact that you are social in the SL grid doesn't make it a social platform!

Well, and this is the issue, isn't it? I mean, not that it needs to be paraded on a JIRA, but is Second Life a social platform or a virtual world? I personally stand behind the fact that it's a virtual world, because it's listed that way in the Terms of Service:


4.1 Second Life is a virtual world service consisting of a multi-user environment, including software, websites and virtual spaces.

Pretty much, for me, that answers that. But it does have social aspects, obviously; it's not the IMVU "life is a chatroom" concept, it's bigger than that, but the Labs are also trying to add social features to their profile system, so...yeah, it has aspects of both. But as much as I'm not really keen on joining Kelley's side, in this, he's right: the Labs say it's a virtual world, it's a virtual world. End trans.

Ripping Fishnet's entire statement needs to be read and appreciated, but here's the highlights:

When I signed up under my original account, Second Life was NOT marketed as a Social network.


The terms of service when I joined considered all information shared private information. They did not tell us when they first made our profiles public and on the web. If they had, allot less people would have been upset when we found out for almost two years they had exposed our Real life tab on the original version of web profiles without telling us.

Also true.

What Yoz is not telling us here is that even with stuff "hidden" it is possible with google and other search engines to retrieve cached versions of the hidden pages. That is a huge security risk.

This is a problem, I grant you, but again--if you didn't want any casual stranger reading it on your profile, which can be opened with one click in virtually any browser--why'd you put it in there in the first place? At that point, it's not anything to do with net privacy, it's all bound up in discretion. As in, having none.

Having your username and rezdate on the web where anyone can find that you use this service ruins the fun for many of us for three reasons:

What does anyone's rez date have to do with it?

1) In many countries, web services have to have explicit options and agreements before they can share ANY part of your profile, even your username. As the courts have already smacked LL, google, and many others for in the past, this doesn't just mean checking that you read the TOS.

Maybe, but at least as far as I can read, the Labs are covered here, at least under the revised, current ToS agreement.

Sites like Facebook, Linked In and Myspace get out of requiring a separate explicit consent because they explicitly market themselves themselves as being services that share your real life information.

Um...hold up a minute. I mean, yes, I get what's being said here, but the Labs actually state--more than once, and in more than one way of putting it--to not use anything personally identifiable on your profile. From Linden Lab's Privacy Policy:

Except under certain limited circumstances set forth here and in our Terms of Service ("Terms of Service"), Linden Lab does not disclose to third parties the personal information or other account-related information you provide us, such as IP address, without your permission.

And note, what they mean when they say "personal information", they mean credit card numbers, bank statements, street address, license numbers, real name, or incorporated name. They don't mean "29 F 5'9" 113 lbs Brooklyn Heights". That's not personal identification.

From section 9 of the Linden Labs Terms of Service:

Our Privacy Policy sets forth the conditions under which you provide personal and other information to us. You understand and agree that through your use of the Service you consent to the collection and use of your information in accordance with our Privacy Policy. If you object to your information being used in this way, please do not use the Service.

And people, there's their legal out. "If you object to our use of your information, you are free not to use our service."

Someone can connect your user name to your real life name.

I'd say this is complete crap, save...yeah. It's happened. There are net names I don't use on the net anymore because of the history behind them. There are people who use the same name everywhere they go, from SL to Facebook to Guild Wars to chat rooms, and yeah--someone can easily track that kind of trail, if they're motivated enough to do so.

Had I known that LL would create web profiles and release user name to the whole web (they originally had NO privacy options) let alone everything on there including the real life tab that I had put information in naively believing the promise that only people logged into Second Life could see, I would have chosen a different username... if I had even joined Second Life at all.

Without going into Miss Fishnet's personal tragedy (and believe me, I do empathize completely on that score), she has reason to feel this way. And I do not want to be the one saying, "Well, it's the way you dressed", because that cheapens the entire argument. But I do have to say this again--if you wouldn't walk up to some random guy on the street corner waiting for the light to turn, and tell him what's on your RL tab, then for the love of all gods, don't put it on your RL tab. How is this hard?

Yes, the Labs should have at least made a blog post about web profiles that pointed out the security flaws. Yes, they should have made a larger deal about it when we did protest. And yes, the wheels of progress have ground very slow indeed where web profiles are concerned, but on the other side, you can restrict what information you give out now. You don't have the default Facebook/Twitter buttons. These are good things, needed things.

Though yes, those things could have been implemented sooner...

She finally ends the statement with saying:

For the record, I am one of those that wants to have the option of not even having my username and join date accessible on the internet at all. There is absolutely no reason that these cannot be contained to only LL servers that are only accessible from within SL.

And this is what I don't get. Forget the SL-is-not-the-internet argument, because it both is and is not and that circles around and back again, we don't need to go there. But this is my concern: that Second Life, by virtue of being Second Life, is somehow "safer" than the net at large.

Really, people? You really think that? Are you high?

No one, no one on the grid, not even the Lindens, knows every single heart and soul in SL. They can't. It's an impossible task. And even someone who thinks they know most of everyone is wrong. There's a vast number of users of SL, even if they only log in once in a while.

Can we know, for an absolute surety, who the person we talk to is? Are they male or female? Do they share our race, our religion, our beliefs, our geographical location? Are they single, married? Do they have kids? Do they have a job? Do they have a pet? Are they over the age of consent for their country of origin?

And if we can't guarantee solid, factual answers to these questions, what makes us think they'll be honest about the hard stuph? Like, have you ever abused a partner before? Have you ever been to jail? Have you ever driven home drunk? Have you ever killed someone?

Case in point. One of my friends, RL, he's a wonderful fellow. He's short, unassuming, thinly built. He wears thick glasses to correct a slight drift in one eye. He's been a computer programmer most of his life, and though he wears a Star of David, because his family is Jewish, he considers himself a deist, if he has to define it at all.

If you saw him on the street, you would think geek. You might even think he codes for a living. He's not strongly muscled. He dresses casually, and his idea of formal is a crisply laundered polo shirt, or--if he must--a plain black and white tux. Which he's rented for the occasion.

You certainly wouldn't guess that on his person, at all times, are three knives, a single-use taser, and a registered concealed weapon--that is always kept maintained and fully loaded. You wouldn't see him and think he's capable of killing someone with a shrimp fork. You wouldn't see him and think he was one of the deadliest, most accurate snipers our armed forces ever had.

That drift in one eye? He got because he clocked so many hours with that eye fused to a scope. But you'd never know it to look at him.

In Second Life, we don't even have that option, because that option is taken away by the virtual--and while we make just as large a statement by the avatars we pick as by the words we type, all we have to go on are those words. And if they're not accurate, then we're trusting blindly.

I'm not saying never trust, that's not the point. I'm saying there's little functional difference, in my opinion, between the wider web and Second Life, in terms of community alone. Since people can get your profile info with a single click in SL, and you don't know everyone who clicks your name, the same thing, I think, holds true on the web.

And wau, this spun out into its own little thing. Okay. Time for part III.

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