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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

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Alan Cyt

How can we vote on how well-implemented something is when we have no first-hand experience of the implementation? You can't be asking us to guess and represent it as fact, surely? Never!

Hamlet Au

Read Linden's announcements for an extensive description of how it'll be implemented. For that matter, the blog posts are themselves part of the implementation.

Laetizia Coronet

An unnecessary feature, not implemented by any other site with adult content (a lot of hard porn US based sites have no verification at all, not even so much as a warning), in a way that is highly intrusive, exectued by a company not worthy of my trust. Furthermore there are indications that it will be illegal in 'some areas' to even provide this info to Integrity Services. Click here (my blog) for a summary of what I think is the main issue.

Laetizia Coronet

Sorry - a summary of the main issue as discussed at Robin Linden's office hour.

Zed Essex

Let me ask you this? Why are we on the regular second life grid having to be verified, when anyone can pretend to be a teenager and have access to our kids on the teen grid? It's seems odd to ignore this possible outlet for people who would have a negative impact on our children. Is it possible that there is another motivation for this verification plan? You owe it to yourself to at least wonder what that motivation might be.

Robbie D

Psst - I heard a rummor that Linden Lab found out that Hamlet is a heavy gambler and is actually only 7 years old, so they were forced to remove the link to this blog from the seondfife.com homepage - say it aint so?

Kal Hocken

Reposted from LL Blog:


This new verification scheme should raise red flags for anyone concerned about their personal security and privacy.

Why is this scheme being contemplated now?

Upon some reflection it occurs to me that a little history lesson maybe required.

1. Lets start with some facts. The oft quoted Terms of Service (TOS) categorically states that the grid is only for those 18 years of age or older. This raises the side issue (discussed further down) as to why do we now need to subdivide a supposedly mature grid into “adult content” portions.

2. Initially in order to open a Second Life (SL) account you were required to submit a credit card number to verify your identity. This is a very common, and not unexpected practice, for on-line websites. This prudent measure was done to ostensibly prevent “underage” users from accessing the grid.

3. Last summer, an “open registration” was instituted, no longer requiring credit card payment information to open an SL account. The goal of “opening” it up was to presumably boost membership. However this had the potential for several adverse side effects, some of which were recognized at the time:
http://blog.secondlife.com/2006/06/27/update-open-registration/
In the flood of new users, one should have expected that a certain percentage could have been underage as there was no means of screening other than the applicant’s acceptance of the TOS.

4. With the floodgates now open, some new users are potentially underage and some join merely to be a nuisance. Last summer, we were told that the “payment info” option on user profiles could help screen users, for what must have been assummed to be griefers, and deny them access to the land. I would hazzard a guess that many saw this as band-aid solution at best.

Which brings us more or less to the present. It seems to me that instituting any new measures after credit card verification was removed, is akin to “closing the barnyard gate after the animals have escaped”. Further, the entire SL community is now being asked to expose their personal security and privacy (not to mention pay) for what is apparently the consequences of Linden Labs own actions and policy decisions.

Let us now consider statements that the required new personal information will not be “stored” by either Linden Labs or their designated surrogate Integrity Services. To many with a computer background, any such blanket statements are hollow promises, both in the literal and technical sense. Without the benefit of a complete security audit of both Linden Labs’ and their surrogate’s systems and processes, the uninitiated user is being asked to believe the following:
1. The webserver that receives your personal information does not “cache” or otherwise store it, even “temporarily” (which could mean minutes/hours/days/weeks).
2. The transactions submitted to the surrogate’s server are not “cached” or “journaled” (common practice to ensure transactions are actually processed and recoverable during heavy server loads), even “temporarily”.
3. There is no possibility that the information is, or could be, copied insitu (as a consequence of normal disk back-up/recovery, or data/message buffering), even “temporarily”.

The above are just a small number of the potential exploitation points. Given the raft of recent identity theft cases involving supposedly “trusted” and “credentialed” organizations (credit check outfits, credit card processing firms, insurance companies, banks, retail chains …) having what were apparently “secured” systems breached and Linden Labs own difficulties last fall, the “buyer must beware”. Once you transmit the information there can be no “iron-cald” guarantee that it will not be unintentionally misused or exploited, inspite of any statements to the contrary.

One might ask at this point why should one consent to potentially placing their real life security and privacy in jeapordy, and is the information being requested unwarrented. Second Life is a game after all, albeit with many “virtual” trappings of real life. We are not applying for a car loan or mortgage. We are not filing an insurance policy or accident claim. So is such sensitive information needed? I dare say, had the requirement for such sensitive information (eg. drivers license, social security number, passport id …) been required when we first signed on to Second Life, even for a supposedly “one-time only verification”, many never would have joined (witness Linden Labs lifting of credit card verification). So it should not come as a suprise if some currently holding premium accounts might see Linden Labs attempt to subject them to this new scheme now as unjust. In essence, some with premium accounts, especially those who prepaid, may regard thier accounts as being held “captive” or in some way being “restricted”, through no action on their part and apparently with little or no recourse. Why institute such an intrusive policy now, even on a voluntary bassis, when the only means of performing any form of initial screening had been revoked by Linden Labs close to a year ago, namely the aforementioned “open registration”, even if it is now being suggested that credit cards “do not provide an adequate means of age and identity verification”? Is this truly an appropriate manner for Linden Labs to deal with what many might reckon is “a mess of their own making”?

As to the potential new feature of requiring some parcels to be marked “adult content” (whatever that means) and thereby restricted through some sort of “access” check, I ask the following:
1. If this is an over 18 userbase, as we are officially reminded constantly, why would such a feature be required?
2. How would this be implemented? — Could such a change adversely effect an already overburdened grid with constant checks? What if the system can not process the checks in a timely manner, like the recent presence issues with people’s friends list, could people be barred from entering their own land?
3. How could this possibly be policed? — The term “adult content” can be quite arbitrary. If courts have difficulty in dealing with this, how can Linden Labs cope (let alone overtaxed land or estate owners)?

So I ask again, why have such a feature? Is it not preferrable to stay true the TOS and consider all mature regions as “adult content”, instead of haphazardly designating some parcels as “special”, and do away with all such “access” checks. Giving land and estate owners the option of declaring, or more properly stated as advertising, that their land is PG or Mature is fine. I hazzard that many fear that the end result of imposing this “adult content” feature will simply lead to the entire grid being bifurcated further, or worse yet made into some muddled version of PG. One way or the other, and for all intents and purposes, the grid may devolve into a much worse place to inhabit and may indeed become unusable. If this new category was created just to overcome users unwillingness to share the aforementioned sensitive information, by having the option to utilize some “segregated” portion of the grid, it would be completely misguided and may eventually lead to more people simply abandoning the game altogether as the grid breaks down.

Having said all that, I would simply conclude by asking Linden Labs two questions:
1. Why was credit card verification ever removed, even if it is now being suggested that credit cards “do not provide an adequate means of age and identity verification”?
2. Is it worth burdening the entire Second Life community, and potentially losing a significant portion of your following, for what many might conclude is an ill considered policy (not to mention heavy-handed and poorly implemented)?

Cyn Vandeverre

LL must tell us *specifics* about what they consider adult content. I've mentioned this in their blog, but standards for sexual display vary so wildly over cultures that 'common sense' is not at all useful as a judgement call.

Heck, in some cultures, my *face* is too sexual, and in others, I could wander nude through the city.

Ditto for the extreme violence prohibition.

Timothy_S_Kimball

150% agree with Kal's post. Some additional quick remarks:

- If LL had gone forward toward getting a service-level certification like SAS-70 etc (as I asked about back at SOP '05), they'd be better positioned to handle the user backlash by having at least SOME measure of trust today.

- This 'Integrity Services' site is run by a company that also collects data for political purposes. *shudder* As one poster on the weblog comments said, I'm awaiting the day that portions of the list get sold off for profit.

--TSK/Alan

Seven Shikami

I voted Other, and as requested, am posting why in comments.

Mine would be "I'm going to wait and see."

A credit card is not enough to prove age. Plenty of parents get cards in their kids names, and there's always the prepaid Visa gift cards that anyone can walk up and buy in a drug store. Fraudulently signing a TOS that says you're 18 doesn't help the person on the other end of the line who unwittingly commits a felony by cybering with you. So, some system is welcome and reasonable.

But there's too many unknowns...

1. The verifiers are the Aristotle group, who do political polling. Do we have written documents stating they will not store and repurpose our information? Their privacy statement says they don't share with 3rd parties, but 1st parties aren't mentioned.

2. Speaking of storing, if we do give up our personal ID, will it be stored or simply checked and then cleared away? I don't like the idea of a database rich with identity theft materials being stored anywhere. Holding onto it only long enough to go "Yeap, that's an adult," that wouldn't be so bad.

I'm not going to argue against having a system, or against locking people out unless they verify. But the verification has to be simple, fast, painless, and SAFE. We live in dangerous times and leaking ID info to anyone, even a company that specializes in this, is risky. I want more data before I yea or nay this.

Laetizia Coronet

Seven, Daniel Linden said this about storage last night at Robin Linden's Office Hour:

[10:12] Daniel Linden: it’s vaulted to provided a government-required audit trail for two years, but neither Linden or Integrity can access that data unless an audit is initiated.

Kirk Nabob

Personally I think LL has deliberately introduced a system that it knows most of its users won't follow...only the really committed adult users will be motivated to comply.

That's because this move will attach the social stigma to adult content in SL that exists in RL. Think about it: You will have to positively opt in to get this stuff. It will be the RL equivalent of telling your cable provider that you'd like to subscribe to the porn channel!

All part of the trend to make SL more mainstream and corporate friendly.

The really naughty stuff (read LL's description carefully of what will be banned, it seems only the extreme stuff will be targeted) will be behind barriers and as everyone's identities will be known, it will be fairly well policed

Mirrabella Schumann

For me Second Life is just a game and I would be recultant to give out my personal information (I do not have a payment info on file). However, while the age verification idea is not bad, I'm afraid it wouldn't work for me. I live in Europe and I have encountered massive problems in the grid, furthermore I cannot properly register my account, because credit cards are not given away here freely as in US (I don't know anyone under 30 owning a credit card). That brings me to the topic of the price, as I cannot buy Lindens, how can I afford the age verification process?

Relee Baysklef

I'm certainly CONCERNED about this, but I understand it.

I'm a Canadian myself, and I certainly hope they don't expect me to give up my social insurance number.

How protected are social insurance numbers in Canada? Even if you're applying for a job, it's illegal for the company to ask for your social insurance number untill after they've already hired you.

What other proof can we give, anyway? In Canada, minors can get driver's licenses, and I don't think there's any digital way to check the age listed on it.

This is all very disturbing.

Zed Essex

This verification plan is suposedly designed to put up a barrier between our children and content of an overtly sexual nature. So let's break that down so we can understand this concept fully.

Content is vitually anything you do in Second Life. Every time you touch that keyboard or mouse while in control of your avatar you are in fact creating content. This is true beause even in the confines of your own parcel of land people can be watching you via use of their camera controls. You may not even know they are watching you because they may be located beyond the "draw distance" you have set up in preferences on your personal viewer.

Having established that, let's say your avatar meets another screaming hot avatar and you want to engage in some hot and passionate,...and lets not forget loving sex with said other avatar.

So you go to your place and strap on your excite parts and jump into your excite bed together and begin the forbidden dance of love. You are, at that moment, creating overtly sexual content!

Does that mean that the land on which you are enjoying your "adult" fun needs to be flagged as such? Will you be able to flag it adult while you're having sex and then unflag it whilst you hold hands by the fireplace? I'm guessing not! Not to mention that you probably log on at around the same time every day and so anyone in the know, will be aware of your unadvertised sex show every day at around say 6PM SLT?

What happens if your new lover decides that they don't want to give up their personal information? This will mean that you can't be with your main squeeze in that "special way" anywhere on the grid. Not to mention the fact that any of your friends that won't give up personal information will now no longer be able to visit you on your parcel of land. Unless of cource you give up your right to have virtual sex with ANYONE ANYWHERE on the grid!

Ya know what tho? This IS NOT THE FAULT OF LINDEN LABS IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM! This is United Staes government brow-beating Linden Labs into inflicting its agenda on to all of us here in Seconf life.

Virtual sexual abstinence hap-hazardly enforced by a governing body due to pressure from a government?

There's gotta be a screenplay in that! I'll write it for $25,000 us dollars. Sorry I have to charge so much but it will be very difficult to tell the story without the film getting an R rating, which will kill us at the box office!

Free "Verify This!" T shirts for all at Club Enigma in Tyta or IM me but only if search isn't working!

Zed Essex

Ananda

I am torn on how to reply to this survey because I think having some sort of age verification is necessary if we are to have Second Life as a safe-space, anything-goes adult playground. Unfortunately, SL is not currently anything of the sort and this *voluntary*, fragmented verification scheme will not get us there.

-This setup does nothing to ban anonymous, unverified players from the majority of SL.

-This setup places all the onus on individual residents to make sure their property and any "adult" activities taking place there are not viewable by unverified avatars, despite the fact that only island owners have any real control over this.

-In short, this setup does nothing to protect residents from harassment and legal attacks from unverified, anonymous accounts. Its sole purpose is to absolve Linden Lab of any responsibility for what happens in SL.

Talia Jiang

Surely this is about shifting the responsibility onto landowners. If there is a complaint about illicit activitities on your land then it becomes your problem; was the Adult flag set, did you take sufficient measures to prevent the activities, why did you not stop the activities, how will you prevent this happening again, etc.

As SL takes off in different and unexpected directions, with various countries and laws, Linden Labs cannot administer Second Life any more.

I read that Belgian Police are patrolling Second Life as there was an incident involving a Belgian citizen. The German police are investigating porn. So RL law enforcement is coming into SL to look at the activities of their own citizens under their own countries laws. Linden Labs cannot cope with this and seem to be responding by placing responsibility on SL residents.

I think the Adult flag will be set by almost all land-owners in case someone decides to do something illegal on their land. At least they can show due care.

Anonymous Avatar

Hardly anybody believes that the age verification is about age verification.

How is porn access on the internet usually handled? In the USA you have to click an access button and claim that you are an adult etc. If you are not, your parents are liable for their lying kid. Internet access is optional and provided by the parents anyway. Usually the public access filters the porn sites etc.

Outside the USA the sites have no Mickey Mouse verification. The responsibility is completely on the parents.

Note that many parents do not care if their kids access porn online. Why should they? Wanking is much safer than trying to initiate a teenage pregnancy. This online porn issue is mostly about bullying fundies in the USA, who want to manipulate what other adults (parents) do.

Note that Linden Lab doesn't allow avatars to choose the verifier.

What comes to identity verification, the press could start to investigate how Linden Lab's employees are involved in the inworld money making in inappropriate ways using alts. The employee policy doesn't specifically address this. But I've been told that LL employees do not follow the half-a-page policy in-world anyway.

The age verification seems to be more about identity verification. Otherwise Linden Lab simply would move 70% of the servers outside the USA where the avatars are. Actually it is very weird that they do not do the move.

The identity verification is needed for policing, spying, spamming and taxing of avatars. Policing is needed to move the risk of lawsuits from LL to the avatars; NSA does their usual tracking of electronic information; the identity lists of avatars will be sold to spammers and Linden Lab will finally give a thought to comply with international tax laws.

The policing aspect seems to be intentionally weak, because nowhere is stated that a SIM/land owner should verify him-/herself. Thus it is possible to buy a SIM, rent part of it, and immediately ban those avatars renting and rerent ... the abuse reports being handled by the SIM owner. And the criminals in SL stock exchange can continue their operations.

Let's relax and see in which year the special snail department forces of FBI, SEC and IRS will make their strike in SL.

Osiris Goff

I have spent considerable time and money in SL, building a huge Metaphysical Library and Conference center in the mainland that I am very proud of. I currently have it blocked with a huge protest over this AVS issue because it is so disingenuous. As of May 21, if Linden doesn't abandon this BS and come clean with the citizens that support them, I will be abandoning all my holdings, shutting down my account and leaving SL until such time the current regime owns up to what is really going on and returns to the policies that made SL the best social network in cyberspace. This move will cost me dearly, but I have to stick to principle.

Right now they are ruining it and I for one, will not participate.

Put your Lindens where your mouth is..

Anonymouse

SL is an adults only venue. It can only be accessed by computer.

Why don't we put the responsibility for children surfing adult content back on the parents of the children? Parents should monitor what their children watch on TV, in Movies, and what they do on the Internet.

I willingly pay taxes to educate the children of my country, but I'm not willing to babysit all of them too.

AD

After reading about the issue here and on the offical Linden and various other blogs, it seems perfectly plain to me that this move is nothing to do with 'protection' of under-age users (what age exactly? Laws regarding that vary greatly from country to country, or even state to state in the US, afaia). No, it's everything to do with collecting and collating international identity information.

LL has greatly expanded their user-base recently. I'm now wondering how long it will be before the whole kit and caboodle is sold off to some huge corporation along with all this very sensitive and valuable information.

Liv

I would just like to remind Linden Lab (and indeed anyone else who may just have forgotten) that however immersive SL actually seems to be, we are talking about PIXELS on a screen here. IMHO anything of a 'sexual nature' you see in SL cannot seriously be considered to be pornography as it isn't actually happening, except in the minds of those involved. It's about adults (according to the TOS they sign on enrolment) enacting, via digitised avatars, whatever their imaginations see fit; isn't that what was promised? "Your world, your imagination"? And for me, that has always been the attraction of SL.

I consider that I have already declared myself an adult by signing up to the TOS, and by the fact that I have always been an advance paying user. Linden Lab has no right to ask me to further verify myself, when their track record is so poor on data management.

Of course it made sense for Linden to do something sensible about ensuring that underage people did not come in. That they did not meet that challenge in a creative, secure way is simply not my problem, and I refuse to fund their 'solution'.

Please let's not lose our sense of perspective here. This is becoming ridiculous and very sad all at once. I am afraid it might be time for me to leave SL.

A very sad Liv

MSGiro Grosso

I find no need to argue the need to have a verification system versus not having one, because I truly believe we need one but not this one. It's quite odd when most XXX rated porn sites require a credit card to gain access so I'm not sure why SL needs to be held to a higher standard. I'd be a fool to think that some kids will steal the credit card to gain access, but that usually doesn't last long nor would it be extensive IMHO.

For those who complain about having one at all you just need to watch an episode of "To Catch a Predator" on Dateline NBC to realize that there are a tremendous amount of sickos (No I'm not promoting Michael Moore's new flick) out there who want to take advantage of young girls and boys. That is flat out wrong and we need to do something to protect the kids, especially given the fact that in the history of mankind, past, present and future, parents won't know everything their kids are doing. We were all kids once and we were as sneaky as they come. It's no different today with the exception of them having access to way more information than we ever knew existed when we were that age.

I think if a cc or PayPal account were the requirements to prove over 18hood most would be accepting of that process.

Marc

Gando Thurston

Parents supervising the Internet use of their children will prevent problems better than verification systems. This also puts the burden where it belongs, on the parents, not other adults minding their own business.

Don't believe that you can't know what you child is doing on the Internet. Other parents are being responsible, why can't every parent be expected to do the same?

Carolyn Saarinen

As a UK resident, one thing that concerns me is what information will need to be provided for verification. We do not have ID cards in this country - though our present government is keen to foist them on us at vast expense. I have my doubts about a US based company having access to UK Driving Licence data. That leaves passport numbers. Renewing my passport would cost me over £160. So, for me, the 'one off' cost of verification is not L$10, it's over L$80,000!

Carolyn Saarinen

As a UK resident, one thing that concerns me is what information will need to be provided for verification. We do not have ID cards in this country - though our present government is keen to foist them on us at vast expense. I have my doubts about a US based company having access to UK Driving Licence data. That leaves passport numbers. Renewing my passport would cost me over £160. So, for me, the 'one off' cost of verification is not L$10, it's over L$80,000!

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