privacy

This topic keeps on giving and, even though I’m a big proponent of anonymity and pseudonymity online, there are things I need to tell all of you. Be aware that you might find my tone aggressive and take it personally. If you do take it personally, I’ll have to say to you what someone else told me: “I’m sorry you feel this way”.

First of all, most of you don’t give a damn about anonymity and pseudonymity online, and you don’t really care about freedom of expression. What matters to you is the “impressive” pseudonymity of your own online persona (in other words, your online trademark or brandname), which you can’t do without; without it, not even you would bother to read your own writings. Now, let’s suppose for a moment that a social network that really allowed freedom of expression and pseudonymity actually existed. You wouldn’t use it. What most of you people want is a medium in which you, and only you, are pseudonymous, while everyone else is transparent, especially to you. How narcissistic is that?

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As this month began, renowned machinimist Draxtor Despres aired the seventh instalment of his widely acclaimed series titled “The Drax Files”. In this episode, which was much discussed by many, Draxtor had a talk with Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble. The video, which was 5 minutes long, did not feature the entire discussion – the full transcript was published by Jo Yardley. As I wrote in my own coverage of that episode of “The Drax Files”, it was most interesting to see LL’s CEO to come forward and speak about Second Life, his vision for the virtual world’s future and its place in the IT universe.

Please note that I refer to what was featured in that episode of “The Drax Files” as a “talk” and a “discussion”, deviating even from how I described it in my related post, because, frankly, it’s not a piece of journalism or investigation. It wasn’t designed to be a reportage, it wasn’t conceived as such. Instead, it was more like a presentation – and it’s not like Draxtor himself (who is actually perfectly candid and honest about his work) asked the number or type of questions you’d expect from a journalist. So, for clarity’s sake, I opt now for the terms “conversation”, “discussion” and “talk”.

This means, of course, that several questions that a user of Second Life may have simply were not addressed at all. And some of the claims and figures that Mr. Humble presents us with only serve to raise more questions, even though I readily admit that, on many levels, he seems to have a far better grasp of what Second Life is all about than all previous LL CEOs combined. So, this time, I’m going to base my work on Jo Yardley’s transcript of the full discussion and I’m going to provide some of my own questions – not that I really expect answers, as Linden Lab has a rather peculiar perception of what an interview should be like (i.e. all questions are submitted for prior censorshipvetting and approval and the interviewer is not allowed to sneak a censoredrejected question back into the interview; perhaps LL should look to this particular policy for some of the reasons that the media treat it with such contempt). Like I said, I don’t expect Mr. Humble to answer my questions – but they’re worth asking in public anyway, if only for posterity’s sake.

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Tonight, I’m just not going to be nice. You see, there are certain types of people who believe that, if we don’t call them out on their crass, abusive behaviour, we somehow “agree” with them and “accept” their antics. So, tonight I’m going to rail against them. I’m going to write about the issue of IM and chat log disclosure in Second Life. You may have run into certain people who have “IM disclosure disclaimers” on their profiles (or their profile picks). Before I begin, though, let me point you to Second Life’s Community Standards, as set forth by Linden Lab:

Disclosure

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow Residents without their consent — including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their Resident profile — is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in Second Life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants’ consent are all prohibited.

Now, what is this thing called “consent”?

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Continuing from where I left off in my previous post on the subject, I am coming back, this time with the opinion of an internet security expert. You see, in RL I happen to work for a software company and this obviously gives me acquaintances with people who are in the IT business. Therefore, it is only natural that they can offer me some concise, accurate information on many issues where my knowledge isn’t enough. Deciding not to be “The Scotty Who Knew Too Much“, I handed all the information I gathered during my investigation of the whole Gemini CDS Ban Relay to a friend who is an internet security expert and a participant in the local chapter of the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project). So, I asked him for his educated opinion. Here’s what he has to say on the matter:

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