Privacy and Protection, Second Life

Second Life Transactions Jeopardize RL Privacy (Crazy Canadians)

A report from the Privacy Commission of Canada has concluded that economic transactions in Second Life could be harmful to a user’s real life privacy, according to the CBC.

The commission published a report from Janet Lo, who conducted the study of SL while a law student at the University of Ottawa. The paper, entitled “Second Life: Privacy in Virtual Worlds,” was commissioned by the commissioner, and its table of contents can be found here.

She found that agreements made between Linden Labs and Second Life users didn’t necessarily translate to transactions between avatars in-world.

Lo cited the infamous happening in August of 2007, when a virtual bank set up in SL ran off with an estimated $750,000 in real money. She also cited a breach in SL’s data security that led to the exposure of the personal information of more than 650,000 users.

The problem, she noted, was that privacy rules and regulations were “missing, or just a bit unclear or vague.” For example, she quotes in her report from the SL user agreement section on privacy:

… [users] may choose to disclose personal information in our online forums, via [a user’s] Second Life profile, directly to others users in chat or otherwise while using the Second Life service. Please be aware that such information is public information and you should not expect privacy or confidentiality in these settings

Lo also writes about legal concerns of Canadians using Second Life – as Linden Labs is based in the US – and about anonymity issues and the potential for in-world survelliance.

“It wasn’t really clear to me whether Second Life keeps track of what avatars are doing,” Lo added. She has since graduated from law school and now articles at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.