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Monday, December 29, 2008


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Miki Gymnast

Just be warned if you go there: dont put on your video or audio: Then your IP address will be scanned. Hacks Heaven is the creator of Maya Realities, a statistics tool for SL scanning IP addresses (uses their server access list of audio/video data combined with SL scanner protocol). see also: http://www.mayarealities.com/services.php

Its against TOS, isnt it?


Interesting link Miki, thanks for sharing...sounds like that is offered to any sim owner, I wonder how many are using it?

Hamlet Au

Miki, that's a fairly serious charge, do you have a source for your assertion? I don't see anything about IP addresses tracked at the NOAA site on the link you provided.


I don't think Miki really has any idea what she's talking about. An "IP scan" generally refers to a port scan for malicious purposes - Hackshaven Harford, who is a program manager for NOAA, has a side project (Maya Realities) of an SL metrics system that gathers statistics information (including IP addresses in order to geographically locate you, which, by the way, any server you visit - including this one - almost certainly logs visitors' IP address). It tracks time spent and location inside a region. He is not scanning your IP address. Don't spread misinformation. Everything I just typed is the result of two minutes of Googling and visting his website's privacy section. http://mayarealities.com/privacy.php

Ann Otoole

Oh Noes I commented on Hamlet's blog. Now I am doomed because the ebil Hamlet has my IP address!

Seriously people need to get past the IP address phobia.

I think that is a cool application of virtual space btw.

Eric Hackathorn

All your IPs are belong to us.
Maybe I can sell them to ebil Hamlet?

Hackshaven Harford

Wow, controversy! Let me see if I can add fuel to the flames.

First, thanks to all our visitors for the continued support you give NOAA and the other educationally minded organizations of SciLands. (http://www.scilands.org/) It has been truly eye-opening these last couple of years to see so many educationally minded organizations flocking to virtual worlds to try new
technologies and improve teaching resources.

Not surprisingly however, government managerial types want justification on how tax dollars are spent. For example, how many people visit NOAA's islands in Second Life? What activities do visitors engage in when they visit? Did they learn anything during their stay?
Without answers to these basic questions NOAA's virtual globe (created and generously donated by Zora Spoonhammer!) would have long since fallen into the ocean and the lights on our virtual offices extinguished.

Thus my other job began at Maya Realities. Maya Realities started in April 2007 as an attempt to justify organizations continued expenditures in Second Life. For some reason the traffic number provided by Linden Lab did little to establish a good justification of return on investment. ;-)

Along with the necessity of providing appropriate numbers to land owners there is the equally if not more important responsibility of protecting visitor's privacy. Let me see if I can help put minds at ease:

1) We aren't actually collecting IP addresses on Second Earth. We need the media url in order to play data sets on the transparent shell around the globe. More information can be found here: http://sos.noaa.gov/

2) IP addresses are *not* correlated with avatar names. That means when you visit Second Earth or any other Maya Realities client you are not divulging personally identifiable information that can be linked to your real life location. In essence, this is no different than when you surf to a web site that uses a tool like Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/).

3) If a land owner wants *any* personally identifiable information they must deploy an information kiosk that contains a copy of the land owners privacy policy and gives a visitor the right to opt-out of any personally identifiable information collection. (the avatar name)

I would encourage those interested to check out Maya Realities terms of service http://www.mayarealities.com/tos.php and our privacy policy http://www.mayarealites.com/privacy.php and contact us directly if you have any questions regarding your concerns. (Miki, I’d love to talk with you!) I will mention that we have worked with a variety of IRB Approval Boards (Google it) in order to ensure that we are maintaining appropriate standards and ethics for human research.

Eric Hackathorn / Hackshaven Harford

P.S. I don't feel qualified to comment on Linden Lab's terms of service, however I do feel honored to list them as a previous client.

Miki Gymnast

I agree with Hackshaven: the offering of robust statistical data is plays a key role for businesses and educational institutions to verify and optimize their virtual presences. A key role for visitiors is their privacy, another one that no 3rd party except LL can identify alt avatars.

>>>> Hackshaven: "I don't feel qualified to comment on Linden Lab's terms of service"

Hm, its not the question to comment, its simply to follow them: In the SL Community Standards (part of the Terms of Service) it is clearly stated:
"Sharing personal information about a fellow Resident --including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, and real-world location beyond what is provided by the Resident in the First Life page of their Resident profile is a violation of that Resident's privacy."
Maya realities clearly violates this. They offer their product with the ability to scan IP addresses. Its a violation both if they join them later with avatar data - or not.
see: http://www.mayarealities.com/services.php - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hackshaven/754825670/in/set-72157600715612643/

>>>> Hackshaven: "IP addresses are *not* correlated with avatar names."

- Both data are stored in a database. Together with visiting times and other data. Its just 3 lines for an experienced programmer to join them. Nobody controls this. One click more and you get the alt accounts of the visitor.
- In the installation requirements you wrote: "We also require the use of a media URL on a small but popular sub-parcel to collect "real life" visitor locations." If you dont join the IP data with avatar names/keys you wouldnt need an divided parcel to separate the avatars for measuring.
see also: http://getsatisfaction.com/mayarealities/topics/what_requirements_are_necessary_for_an_installation

>>>> Hackshaven: "If a land owner wants *any* personally identifiable information they must deploy an information kiosk that contains a copy of the land owners privacy policy..."

This is an alibi. We get spammed by information if we enter a SIM, nobody will read through endless "Privacy Policy" notecards, especially noobs with no orientation. We all have agreed in the LL ToS, and this excludes this kind of data collection. And: i havent seen any kiosk at the NOAA Sims or for example at the ISM-International Spaceflight Museum, where the system is also installed.

>>>> Hackshaven: "Not surprisingly however, government managerial types want justification on how tax dollars are spent."

Yes, very good. But they also could use tools which dont evidently violate the ToS of the content provider and the data privacy of the user. If a state instituition here in Germany would accept both the Maya Realities Privacy Policy and the Linden Labs ToS they would get lots of stress with the data security agency.
And if they look on tax dollars: Other tools like UP System or SmartPatrol with same or more functionality use legal methods to read the language preferences of a vistor - for much less money.
see also: http://www.logiq.biz/up/features.php

>>>> Clarrice: "I wonder how many are using it?"

On the website they have a counter: "Maya Realities currently analyzes 1,247 regions and tracks 733,509 unique avatars."
In my estimation it is a little bit much, because the tool is overprized, but it is a popular tool. With the estimation only 25% of these SIM's have mature content they would get a great chance to combine an BDSM-related alt with an official visitor of the NOAA SIM's.

>>>> Ann: "Seriously people need to get past the IP address phobia."

Everybody knows if you open the webbrowser lots of RL-data are collected. Thats no problem. But you offer much more personal information in Second Life and trust in your protection by the community standards. You agree at the setup that LL stores your IP (and also the id of your network card/hard disc... to identify alts). But you dont agree that unauthorized 3rd parties use these data and making money with it.

But i am sure this tool will still continue to grab RL-data. Why?


Hackshaven Harford

I'm on the road today so can't really respond at length. In the meantime, however, would anyone like to talk about the article's content? Anyone have a favorite KML file they would like visualized?
Sadly, I may only have a short time before I am sent to the corn field for TOS violations. Any last minute takers?

Hamlet Au

Whatever the reply, please keep it civil, and if serious assertions are made, make sure they're backed up by extremely rigorous sourcing. (I just had to delete one that didn't meet that criterion.)

Hackshaven Harford

I have to admit I'm curious what was said that warranted deletion. :-) That said, perhaps this isn't the right place for this discussion. Let me propose the following:

1) Hold an open forum discussion sometime in the next month at a location of the community's choosing where I will do my best to address concerns regarding virtual world metrics, my personal life, my feelings about the US government, and offer you all a chance to invest in my personal ponzi scheme.

2) Form an advisory panel regarding privacy in virtual world with the goal of creating a visitor "bill of rights" that appropriately balances the needs of larger organizations with those of the individual. In fact, I'd be willing to bet we could get Linden Lab's attention and directly address some of the concerns regarding their terms of service.

3) Miki, I'd like to offer you a free month of our service on a region that you own, or one where you can gather the appropriate permissions from the land owner. Get some first hand knowledge of our product and then offer suggestions! What can we do to improve our offerings specifically in terms of visitor privacy? At the end of the month I encourage you to blog your findings -- good or bad. I think we would all benefit.

So what do all of you that have bothered to read this far down in the comments have to say? Anyone have suggestions on a meeting location for #1? Hamlet, if Miki isn't interested would you be willing to take up the offer on #2 or #3?

Hackshaven Harford

Meh. I so just got trolled. Oh well, at least there is a written record that I tried.

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