Friday, June 27, 2008

An ony must (whatever an ony must do)

I had actually been waiting to post this as soon as some new article came out stating that obligatory „in Second Life users can anonymously".... well, do whatever they want.

For example, and this only because I couldn't quickly find a current newspaper article about anonymity in SL, you can go to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. But that wasn’t what I was getting at. My point is, and yes, I'm slowly arriving there: Why does every one talk about the anonymity of users in SL and never mention that our Avatars are living in a society that would make the TSA clap its (leather clad, iron fisted?) hands in glee? My point - and I'm finally got there – your Avatar is anything but anonym.

If I had been trying to find another reason to write I could of taken this: Matilda, who I've talked to sometimes but never set up as a friend, recently sent me an IM – and maybe because we were not friends and she couldn't know I was online she carefully pointed out „I hope you don't think I'm stalking you, but I've got a question you might be able to answer." (And no, the question was not „Why don't you return my calls, you bastard! Who do you think you are? And who was that floozy I saw you at Sax?".)

Actually, I've forgotten what she did want to ask me, but it certainly wasn't that nor did I feel stalked. But, if Matilda had wanted to (and I emphasize that she didn't!) it would have been easy enough. Why? Because, to make my point again, our avatars can be hidden about as well as Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Meaning: Not at all. Or, said a bit differently: You can teleport, but you can’t hide.

Take Profiles, for example. Love 'em, read 'em, use 'em every day But they do say more about you then you might appreciate. I once met a Spanish girl who had something along the lines of "Hot Free Sex "-Sim in her profile that I, as best I could, casually asked about.

"What!!!" She shrieked - making me feel like the pervert for asking. I politely pointed out that she had but one item in her picks and that was the aforementioned place of enthusiastic exploration of others.

"What!!!" (I got again) and then a "Let me check! 1 sec". I received a long explanation that sounded vaguely familiar to "this isn't what it looks like, dear, let me explain." She adamantly argued that she hadn't put it there and I said things like, "Yes, I would have been surprised" while I thought things like, "Yeah, sure."

I'm less tough on Group Memberships though, as offers to join occasionally pop up as soon as you enter a sim and are quickly accepeted. And maybe wandering around with "Pussycat Devoted" (or something like that) in my own profile has made me less willing to criticize that oversight.

But take Groups, for example. Trying to hide from some one? Made it so a friend (lover, enthusiastic acquaintance, stalker) cannot see your online status? He, she or it can. All he needs to do is be in the same group as you and most groups – especially stores and clubs– are set up to show just how many happy members said group has. It'll also show you who is online or when they last logged in, though only the date.

Told your girlfriend that you're not going to be on tonight and then sneaking in? She just has to check one of your groups. If she's not a member she can usually quickly join – and then even leave again afterwards. That's called covering your tracks (which is what you failed to do, bubba).

Or take Creations. Anything you build or create in SL will hold, until eternity (well, until it's deleted), you name on it. This isn't a bad thing, and probably pretty useful for actual builders. Like that dance ball you've been using? Right click, more, information and you've got the name of the creator – and can usually go from there to their profile and on to their store. But lot's of other stuff gets tagged as well. Notecards, landmarks, pictures. It's sort of like signing any porn mag you've ever bought and then giving them away to charity. (Okay, an unlikely situation, but it’s a bit like that.)

Used to dabble in making male appendages before moving on to more exciting ..ehm… less exciting builds like chairs? Those dangly bits might still be around (and explain why you keep getting the IMs "Hey, can I get this in a lighter shade and, like, quick?") It's all there and it's all got your name on it.

And this is just the normal stuff, that probably has you yawning already. SL, of course, offers loads of little tools for the more inquisitive, stalking nature as I found out while researching this. Sim scans which tell you who’s in your vicinity. Chat spys that you can latch on to someone and at least hear what they are saying even after you've left the sim (happy, as far as I know, only open chat and only restricted to that sim). Avatar online probes which will report the online status of anybody, friend or foe. And then, because anything that can be sold in SL will be, detective services that will snoop anybody you ask them too (and I’m suspecting also provide loyalty checks on your new partner).


Eaton said...

Just a short follow up.On The SL Blog there is an explaination of how to record voice chat (and, somewhere near the end) they point out that you should only record voice chats from people who have given their consent. Right! :)