Op/Ed: Linden Lab’s Weasel Worded Quasi-Assurances

by Alphaville Herald on 30/08/07 at 11:05 pm

Concierge customers: boycott Linden Lab’s ‘test’ of the Age Verification system

by Inigo Chamerberlin

Linden Lab and Aristotle’s Integrity – trustworthy

Earlier today I received an eMail from Linden Lab – the text is reproduced below the fold. After reading the eMail all I could say was – excuse me? Am I missing something here? It seems to me that remaining anonymous is a much better method of ‘building trust-based relationships’ – as in ‘No, you can’t have my RL details, you’ll just have to trust me’.

‘Trust’ actually flies out the window when your RL details are revealed.

‘Trust’ is something that depends on not knowing for sure, and trusting the individual concerned regardless.

I have no idea what idiot wrote this eMail, but I can say with some confidence that logical argument is definitely not their forte. As for ‘We see this tool as critical to supporting Residents in shedding anonymity’! Oh yes! I’m sure we have all noted the relentless clamour of residents DEMANDING the ability to ‘shed anonymity’? Just begging for Linden support?

Like the residents are too dumb to figure out that they are perfectly at liberty to place any and all RL details about themselves in their profiles?

I note the eMail is also well larded with weasel worded quasi-assurances as to the (cough) ‘integrity’ of Integrity Aristotle – a company with a fine track record of disclosing information to anyone with the money, or political influence, to make it worth their while. And a company who’s sole previous attempt at providing effective age verification failed miserably…

Tell us Linden Lab, where is a copy of the contract, including the specific clauses relating to the inviolability of our personal data, available for download in PDF format?

No publically available contract to inspect? I see… Well then, what penalties will be paid to anyone foolish enough to give the requested information to Integrity Aristotle who then finds their personal data has been passed on to third parties?

Ahhh, I see… We have to take it on trust.

Trust a company that on a daily basis demonstrates their inability to run their business effectively? A company that moves the goalposts without warning? A company that repeatedly bans several of its more important customers without reason or warning? A company that is unable to provide a reliable product? A company that can’t even maintain that most basic of internet commerce tools – a reliable online billing system?

I also find it laughable that Linden Lab expect us, the Concierge customers, to test this wretched system for them. On the other hand, why not try? You probably won’t find a more gullible bunch than the Concierge customers.

People who cheerfully stump up sums of US$195, and upward a month for the current level of service – outages caused by single points of failure – network/asset cluster issues that make sales, building, teleporting, running events virtually impossible much of the time – griefers and penniless non-contributors who are only here because of the very policy that makes ‘Age verification’ necessary to try and prevent Linden Lab getting into hot water…

The ‘open sign-up’ policy that we warned Linden Lab repeatedly was both unsustainable and an obvious source of trouble. A policy that led many of us to move from the Mainland to private estates in the first place in order to obtain a measure of protection against the anarchy that swiftly followed ‘Open registration’.

So… who better to ‘prove’ this supposedly ‘trust’ enhancing system, run by one of the least trustworthy organisations in the business? Yes, of course, the mugs. Concierge customers.

What is the agenda is here?

Could it be to persuade the Concierge customers to sign up, then use them as an example to the rest of the teeming masses? Or is it just that they think we are the most likely to buckle under the pressure of implied threats regarding being held ‘liable’ for anything that goes on in our estates?

Another interesting question. In this fairest and most transparent of worlds, are the corporates going to be subject to exactly the same rules? If so, WHO is ultimately responsible for, say, Dell, or IBM’s estates? Will the CEO of IBM or Dell have to verify their ages?

Of course not! Linden Lab knows perfectly well that the individuals concerned are over the age of 18 – which is supposed to be what this is all about.

In which case, seeing that linden Lab know perfectly well that I am over the age of 18, why on earth do they expect me to ‘verify’ my age – incidentally placing personal information in the ‘care’ of the likes of Integrity-Aristotle?

Why indeed should ANY Concierge customer – someone who pays Linden Lab thousands of dollars a year for the privilege of occupying a sim remember – be expected to provide further, redundant, ‘proof’ of their age?

If Corporate money talks – why doesn’t Concierge customer’s talk too?

I urge all Concierge customers to boycott this supposed ‘test’ of the Age Verification system.

And before you dismiss this as scare-mongering, ask yourself this. What do you think your chances are of being removed from the records if either the scheme is abandoned, or you decide to leave SL, assuming you do sign up for Age Verification?

Ahhh… but you trust them. Don’t you…?

The Lab’s letter to its concierge customers

Hello, Inigo Chamerberlin.

As you may have heard, we’re implementing the first stage of an Identity Verification system beginning with age. Our ultimate goal is to give Second Life Residents the opportunity to reveal as much or as little real life information about themselves as they like, and to have that information verified. We see this tool as critical to supporting Residents in shedding anonymity and building trust-based relationships — but only to the extent that they’re comfortable.

We’ve engaged the services of a third party provider, Aristotle’s Integrity, who will match information that Residents provide with information available in public records. You will be asked to provide your name, geographic location, birthdate, and an ID that is specific to your country, for example the last four digits of your social security number if you’re American. We will not be storing any information except for a code that tells us there was a positive match. Integrity will not keep any identifying information about you.

Age verification will initially be used as a way to limit access to restricted content within Second Life. Therefore, in order to enter any parcel or region which has been flagged as containing restricted content, i.e. sexual activity or extreme violence, age verification will be required to ensure only adults, or people over the age of 18, gain access. Verifying age will be voluntary, except in this context.

Prior to launching age verification throughout Second Life, we’re hoping you, the concierge customers, will help us out by trying the process and letting us know about your experience — if you were able to accurately verify your age, if the process itself is clear and understandable, and what problems you encountered. Please visit the Age Verification link available from the Your Account section of our website in the right sidebar and enter the requested information. This link is currently only available to concierge customers. When you are finished, you will be asked to take a short survey to fill us in on your experience.

For more information on Age Verification in Second Life, please visit the Second Life Blog.

Thank you very much for your help, and your continued support.

Linden Lab
Creators of Second Life

66 Responses to “Op/Ed: Linden Lab’s Weasel Worded Quasi-Assurances”

  1. Victorria Paine

    Aug 31st, 2007

    “I agreed with LL To give them my info based on what thay ask me to do and what thay tell me on just useing a code..IF thay use this in ANY other way NO matter why or for what ever reason thay brake the law.If thay want to use ANY of this info in ANY other way then what i agreed on thay need to make a NEW agreement with me, anf then i will deside if thay can use it.”

    And what I am saying is this: LL is telling you, “more is coming”. Focusing on the narrow issue of the age restrictions is missing the larger boat, and LL is being rather up front that there is a larger boat coming just around the corner.

  2. janeforyou Barbara

    Aug 31st, 2007

    ” This information WILL NOT be used in your profile. It WILL NOT be stored by Linden Lab, so there’s no way we could put it in your profile. :)

    Written statment from LL to me!

    So i cant understand why some of you are so darm worried! I got nothing to hide, and i use the same info RL if i rent a car- get a bank loan-Buye a flat-register a car-Rent a TV-Goes to a hospital- go to a Doctor- apply for a job or what ever!

  3. economic mip

    Sep 1st, 2007

    Well I am spending less time on Second Life right now, but the question I asked the Metaversed people was why not just avoid adult content? I am a bumbling idiot on the grid, and would be happy to at least know I was about to run into an “erotic toilet” when I turned the corner. However, as others have said things can get adult fast, and I do not like where Jessica Linden claimed they planned to take this (The ability to verify RL age, gender, and location and have people restrict land to some or all of these features, example given “20 something women from California alone are permitted on your land.”

  4. Second Lulz Vigilante

    Sep 1st, 2007

  5. Nacon

    Sep 1st, 2007

    Infocyde said: “Waaa, Waaa, Waaa, your gorean slave girl avatars will now be ID’ed as dudes for all to see, and you are upset. Awwwwwww…”
    Heheheh, how true.

    Shockwave said: “No, it’s a game. It is an entertainment program similar to WoW or Everquest, but allowing user content.”
    Whatever how you want to believe, LL already said it’s “3-D virtual world” on their site.

    The term of “virtual world” is a 3D platform.

    For people thinks “virtual world” is a game has a problem with dealing with what is reality and what is not. (idiots)

    Inigo said: “Nacon – get real please. Linden Lab HAS proof of my age. They have had it since I first signed up, back when you had to provide CC details to get on board.”
    Ahhh, good for you…. it doesn’t mean you STILL have to give them more info again. If you’re already verified… you’re verified, period. This whole thing ONLY applies to people who ARE STILL NOT verified yet.

    …it’s easier to say you’re an idiot, though.

  6. Obscure Doodad

    Sep 1st, 2007

    That is exactly right. Even people with NON ADULT content on their land have to declare their land adult in self defense. Someone could come there and rez adult content, have it be seen by kids — and who do you think will be held responsible? Correct, the land owner.

    So things have to go adult very fast. The ONLY WAY to stop this is refuse to verify. If you refuse, rent on that land dries up, then the landowner sells or abandons and LL suffers a huge loss in tier income. Their next only possible step would be either declare bankruptcy or relax the standards and find some other way to exclude kids.

    But if you acquiesce to this insanity, you take on all the risk of exposure in the future. LL will risk nothing if this ploy succeeds.

    Refuse to verify. If they exclude from adult content, let them. Then just sit and let time pass and watch their coffers run dry from paying salary with no income tier dollars. Watch them find a way to relax the standards.

  7. DireLobo

    Sep 1st, 2007

    It has been highly entertaining reading the paranoid ramblings of some of you. So I thank you for the yuks.

    Here are a few highlites which I choose to address, briefly:

    >1. “Why indeed should ANY Concierge
    >customer – someone who pays Linden Lab
    >thousands of dollars a year for the
    >privilege of occupying a sim remember –
    >be expected to provide further,
    >redundant, ‘proof’ of their age?”
    >You got me. I dunno.

    It has nothing to do with verifying the ages of Concierge customers, though if the policy is stated to be applied to everyone then it should upply to Concierge customers also – the point was to select a small easily reached subset of users to beta-test the age verification.

    >It is not a platform – my computers are
    >platforms. It does not function on its
    >own nor enable other software to be run
    >upon it, unless you count scripting.

    You are undestimating the power and flexibility of LSL if you dismiss so easily the idea that LSL does allow you to run other software on top of SL. Additionally, nowhere will you find in a definition of Platform the statement that it MUST be an Operating System that interacts directly with the hardware in order to be considered a platform. At times systems like Smalltalk, Toolbook, and even LotusNotes were considered platforms. The definition is not so clear and it is neither clear in this case that SL is not a platform.

    >Nacon is right. This is yet another
    >Tempest In A Teacup.

    HAH! Hardly! Its more like a mountain out of a molehill…

  8. Nacon

    Sep 2nd, 2007

    Mmmm Molehill! No wonder why I post. ;)

  9. Asp Grelling

    Sep 2nd, 2007

    The adult flag goes hand in hand with verification and only verified avatars will be able to get onto land that has the adult flag set.
    Setting the adult flag will reduce the number of people who can get onto land but more people on land means a higher search ranking so land owners first reaction will be to leave the adult flag unticked.

  10. janeforyou Barbara

    Sep 3rd, 2007

    @ Asp Grelling I got adult flagg on all my SIMs. I allways had. The age verifi are just on beta for us now.We it goes full scale i ONLY want verifi adults on my Mature lands.

    As land owner i am responsible for not letting in minors so i will keep my lands adult flagged, i dont want a a law sue on me!

    Besides i think it will also be safer for my 3800 members.And i am not worried for traffick as the real matures will come to adult flagged sims.A lot was conserned wen we got voice chat on traffick, i desided to keep voice chat and my traffick booms!
    So i dont worry,,i adapt, if you cant adapt to development and to the future you dont got any.Just the same as RL :-)

  11. Merlin Oddfellow

    Sep 3rd, 2007

    Ok can you enlighten me ? “adult flag” ? I thought that :
    1- SL was only for people above 18
    2- That in SL, PG-rated areas were for ADULTS wanting to have “non offensive” content
    3- Mature-labeled areas were for adults who don’t mind that “potentially offensive” content.

    So now there will be another type of land ? Or will the “age-verified” flag replace the “mature” areas ? If not, what will it be permitted in “mature” areas which will not be in “PG” ?

    oh, and for the “i have nothing to hide” people, in RL i have sex with my gf, it doesn’t mean that i want people to know when i do so and give them binoculars to look.

  12. Stone

    Sep 3rd, 2007

    Here’s my true horror story. Concierge members were sent an email asking them to act as test dummies for the age verification system and then fill out a survey about the experience. It was done by a link from the SL account web page. US residents were asked to supply either their state driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of their federal SS number. I decided to be a good guy and help out. Well, despite being older than dirt, I flunked both ways repeatedly. I could not prove that I am older than 18. So, I called the concierge phone number they provided. The response: don’t worry about it. I said I had a big investment in SL and didn’t want to lose it. The response: don’t worry about it. I said I didn’t want a black mark on my record. The response: we aren’t keeping a record of it. The only relief offered was: don’t worry about it.

  13. Jessica Holyoke

    Sep 3rd, 2007

    Hi Merlin

    “Adult” land was initially designated as areas with explicit sexual activity or extreme violence. Presumably, “Mature” land you can have violence or sexual activity, just not extremely or explictly types of violence or sex. Plus you can swear. “PG” would be no swearing, no fighting and no..well 30-50% of what appears in the Herald.

    And if you think age verification is making a mountain out of a molehill, take a look at what SL has. Some resident’s might believe that age verification will knock out the escorts. This is possible due to privacy concerns on the part of the participants leading to a possible population collapse. Less customers verifying combined with less escorts verifying equals less opportunity for clubs equals fewer clubs and overall revenue . But I think the real losers in this as far as sex in SL goes would be the free sex areas. How many residents take part in the free sex areas solely to have anonymous sex, ie SexyBeach number two under popular places. Age verification takes some of that anonymity away. So for some portions of the SL population, age verification is a big deal.

    Then you have to look at where should age verification end? If the Linden’s intend for age verification to be a $L sink,revenue or a means to ensure ToS compliance, then why limit it to 30-50% of the population? Why shouldn’t everyone be age verified, other than privacy concerns over data?

  14. Victorria Paine

    Sep 4th, 2007

    “And if you think age verification is making a mountain out of a molehill, take a look at what SL has. Some resident’s might believe that age verification will knock out the escorts. This is possible due to privacy concerns on the part of the participants leading to a possible population collapse. Less customers verifying combined with less escorts verifying equals less opportunity for clubs equals fewer clubs and overall revenue . But I think the real losers in this as far as sex in SL goes would be the free sex areas. How many residents take part in the free sex areas solely to have anonymous sex, ie SexyBeach number two under popular places. Age verification takes some of that anonymity away. So for some portions of the SL population, age verification is a big deal.”

    That’s interesting. I would think that if the anonymous free sex areas were to see a decline, that could *help* escorts in the medium term. One of the “levers” on the demand for escorts is the availability of free sex in various places on the grid — if that free space dries up a bit, that could drive up demand for escorts and actually help the situation somewhat for them economically as compared to where they are today.

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