Another Scandal in Second Life?

It is actually hard to say if we actually have a new scandal brewing or not. We have known factions in Second Life that have decided to take IP Protection and Griefing matters into their own hands. Some of us think of such actions as vigilantism. In response to vigilantes other groups have sprung up to rain in the vigilantes. They are sort of anti-vigilante vigilantes. And so it goes. Whether it is a new scandal or maybe just the smoke from artillery shots in an ongoing war is hard to say. So, this article is mostly a reminder of risks in SL.

Image by: US Army Africa - Flickr

Rob Humble at SLCC 2011 in his keynote mentioned doing something with griefers. I don’t have an exact time mark, but it was around 30 minutes in. The Lab is not going to tell us what the Lab is planning. In many ways it is a war between the Lab and griefers. I’ve been in office hour/user group meetings where the Lindens were griefed. When they can’t stop an attack the meeting moves to a new location. So, it is a complex issue even for the Lab. They are NOT going to tip off the enemy.

What is popping up again is the war between the various vigilante groups. My advice is to not trust any of the vigilantes. One could lose an eye in all the finger pointing.

What Do We Know?

A number of accusatory posts are appearing in the forum and on SLUniverse. I can’t know the truth behind them or find a way to verify them. Some disappear, some remain. It is hard to know whether the Lab is being gamed into taking them down or making the call on their own. But, once again someone is collecting names and IP Addresses. That is probably not that uncommon. Whether it is a problem depends on what happens with that information. Regardless of what happens the list creates additional risk for those in the list.

There is very little most residents can do at this point. Being educated on the risks and scams allows one to be cautious and recognize known scams.

Understanding how the vigilante game is played requires understanding basic political propaganda techniques and political misdirection used in RL politics. One simply has to assume everyone on all sides is lying until you can prove otherwise. Believe no one. Wait for proof.

Vigilante groups or those befriended by them tend to move into Second Life anti-copybot and IP Protection businesses. They need those lists of users the vigilantes make to run their business. If you’re trying to buy protection, remember, you may be buying protection from the people from whom you want to be protected.

The data the vigilantes collect on their enemies , read as those they THINK are stealing or griefing, is then used in the protection systems. We saw how that was abused in the RedZone Scandal in February 2011.

Obviously anyone, including a vigilante, can get things right and nail a bad guy. May be even most of the time. But, society has seen well meaning people, and especially vigilantes, make mistakes. For that reason our legal systems require a trial to test proof of against belief of guilt and the right to defend one’s self. But, many are so unenlightened they believe a percentage of innocents wrongly punished is acceptable. Others are so egotistical they can’t conceive of their making a mistake, so thus in their minds a trial is not necessary.

For RedZone history and information see: (listed in reverse chronological order)
RedZone Pit Opens
Vanity Skin Fair and RedZone
RedZone Privacy Issues Develop – Review
RedZone – Privacy Violator

One of the factors in the RedZone Scandal that blew the lid off, at least in my opinion, is the wrongful convictions and accusations. As the system became more aggressive in an attempt to provide better protection, more innocents were left wondering what happened and how to fix it. There protests were eventually heard.

Soon there was a free GreenZone product to tell a resident when a region was using RedZone. The use of RedZone increased the chances one’s IP Address and avatar name would go into a database. One might be falsely labeled a copyboter. So, the war escalated with Red and Green tech with residents in the middle being asked to boycott or support RedZone users. The propaganda war was far more dramatic than the actual tech war, which should clue people to the goings on in RL politics.

One can go all conspiracy theory on GreenZone and decide the griefers and IP thieves were retaliating and publishing GreenZone. Personally I don’t buy it, but I recognize the possibility.

Months later we find out the creator/operator of RedZone is going to jail for criminal actions. This tells us something about the self professed oh so noble protector of our IP Rights.

So What Does One Do?

Things are getting much more complex in Second Life and the risks are increasing with the addition of more social networking. It is also getting easier to connect up dots and link an avatar or alternate identity to a real person.

The recent round of Google+/Facebook pseudonym controversy discussion shows these issues are big money. Two of the largest corporations on the planet are fighting the issue out. I think people in general are the losers in this battle. Privacy is up to the individual and everyone is working to strip it away. It is a lonely fight.

In these ‘nym’ controversies it has become obvious that people have different aspects to their lives and personalities and they use different identities with different online services. The big money players want to drill through those identities and link them together. The links can give them more insight into you and what you may be enticed to buy. The companies can sell that information. For thieves connecting the dots gives them more information to assist in the theft of your identity.

At this point about the only defense is to create multiple identities. Whether you are a political activist or just doing online banking, one needs a financial identity for financial institutions and that identity needs to be well protected. That protection is up to you. Keep it secret. Your full or maiden name, birthday, and street address as used with financial institutions should never be used in social networking or games.

Then there are your phone pictures and smart phones with GPS. Several brands of phone embed geo-location information in each picture. Apple’s Smartphone tracks you travels and saves it in an Apple database. For those in Japan, I may have this wrong, Apple now has to encrypt the information and may only keep it for 7 days… and who’s watching Apple?

Take a picture of your new flat panel TV and post it in Facebook and someone will be able run a program on the image and see where the TV is setting or at least where the camera was when it took the picture. Post your vacation information and they will know when they can go pick it up. Every time you turn around someone else is out to get you.

In Second Life it is very much the same way. One has to be very careful what scripts they run and what HUD’s they attach or tools they use in their businesses. One has to be confident in the viewer they use. Remember Emerald. We have to hope well trusted Third Party Viewer Developers avoid turning to the dark side.

Just because a program says it will protect you does not mean it will. Thieves have been known to market such programs just to get into your system. A whole branch of malware is named Trojan for a reason.

Serious skepticism is your best protection.

Oh… and in your media controls, some recommend one block But, how is one to know if they are a bad guy or a victim? You can use an incognito browser window in Chrome to visit the site.

2 thoughts on “Another Scandal in Second Life?

  1. Who said Phoenix and Firestorm are now safes pieces of software?
    4:36 – Jessica says Firestorm Beta 2 now has 25,000 users and growing. Jessica says they see lots of new users that have not used Firestorm before. My immediate question is how they know if you have used Firestorm before or not?

    • The easy way to guess is to compare current download numbers with previous download numbers. If Beta 1 had 500 downloads and Beta 2 has 1,000 one can assume there are 500 people that have not used FS before.

      Also, Linden Lab provides them numbers and information on viewer use we don’t see.

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