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Privacy in Second Life: Varieties, Issues, and Solutions


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5 minutes ago, Silent Mistwalker said:

Dammit. Yet another club I never got invited to join. This is all your fault @Scylla Rhiadra! Thanks to your constantly forgetting that I even exist, I will never be a part of the cool kids' clubs! 

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I've sent the password to the Executive Washroom via DM, Silent.

Please remember to replace the toilet paper if you use up the whole roll?

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A lot of the time I don't have a fixed home, so if someone pesters me I just teleport away or ignore them. If they cam me but don't talk to me I would never know (nor care). In my experience most people are absorbed in their own things and generally don't bother others anyway. For me, obliviousness is the best privacy tool ever. 😄

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5 hours ago, Persephone Emerald said:

I think that online and in social media generally people put themselves at risk by exposing their RL name, location, job information and personal details. I don't do those "fun" questionnaires that ask random questions to give your fictional name or lump you into some kind of category, because your pet's name or the street you grew up on could be security questions somewhere. I generally avoid using my RL name or picture online or in SL, though I don't mind telling people what city I live in because it's a big city and I have a common first name, so it would be hard to identity me with just that information.

I like to profile myself with my SL profile and like to look at other people's to figure out something of what they're like. If someone doesn't fill out their profile at all I assume they're either not smart enough, too boring, or too paranoid to warrant my further attention. If they happen to have an interesting conversation with me, then I'll re-evaluate my view of them. 

I don't mind being cammed on and do cam on other people sometimes, but I figure as long as nobody says anything about it, then it didn't happen. I do think it's extremely rude to cam on someone while their avatar is naked or dressing and then IM them to say they look hot or whatever. Because we don't have real privacy for our avatars in SL, I think this requires of us the social nicety of pretending that we have such privacy.

Everything you've said here, literally, represents pretty much my own practice and approach to privacy in SL (and online generally). I certainly don't go out of my way to reveal details about my RL, but I've said a fair amount about it, here on the forums and in-world -- I imagine that someone who was really determined and kind of perversely obsessive could probably dox me on that basis if they wanted to -- but it wouldn't be easy, and certainly not worth the effort. I am, after all, rather dull.

Your last sentence is really interesting. Arguably, we have affordances in SL that make it easier to be private here than in RL, surely? I've often wished I could block and mute people in RL, for instance!

To some degree, isn't it true that the maintenance of privacy in both virtual and physical worlds is part of a social contract into which most of us enter, and by which most of us abide? It's a "pretense" in that it can be violated, but so much of our lives as social creatures is based on such contracts.

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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3 hours ago, Tama Suki said:

The only thing I'm dissatisfied with is that I can't use a standard facepalm emoji.

Tama, if you have something to say that is relevant to the subject of this thread, I'm sure we'd all be glad to hear your contribution.

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17 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

It is, after all, a violation of my body and my personal space (virtual those these are), and it is a violation of commonly accepted conventions of behaviour in a civil society. Recognizing that there are people who will still do it isn't the same as "expecting" it -- and if I catch someone up to it, I'm not going to shrug it off and says "Oh well, no privacy in SL": I'm going to give them hell.

 

I would certainly agree with this if it were RL but it's not. Your avatar image is not your body and no one is violating it. It's looking at a body and parts that hundreds of other people have as well as stores that sell the body/skin, whatever.  They could simply derender your clothes and you'd never even know.  I'm not really sure how you would know if they are looking up your skirt or not or are you wanting to revisit the now closed "look at" thread?  Also, in no way is SL a civilized society. People don't chase others around parcels with pretend huge **** avatars or set them on fire as described in the recent griefer-ish thread. BTW, lots of clubs check women to make sure they are wearing panties. Not really sure why as they are not showing and someone has to actually look to see that they are not. Would you find that invading your personal space as well? 

Now if someone is taking pictures and sending them to you or passing them around I would find that harassments but still not really a violation of one's body.  

I know that some people here feel like their avatar is somehow them but it's not.  I'll respect that you find it a violation though.  I just don't.

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5 minutes ago, Sam1 Bellisserian said:

I would certainly agree with this if it were RL but it's not. Your avatar image is not your body and no one is violating it. It's looking at a body and parts that hundreds of other people have as well as stores that sell the body/skin, whatever.  They could simply derender your clothes and you'd never even know.  I'm not really sure how you would know if they are looking up your skirt or not or are you wanting to revisit the now closed "look at" thread?  Also, in no way is SL a civilized society. People don't chase others around parcels with pretend huge **** avatars or set them on fire as described in the recent griefer-ish thread. BTW, lots of clubs check women to make sure they are wearing panties. Not really sure why as they are not showing and someone has to actually look to see that they are not. Would you find that invading your personal space as well? 

Now if someone is taking pictures and sending them to you or passing them around I would find that harassments but still not really a violation of one's body.  

I know that some people here feel like their avatar is somehow them but it's not.  I'll respect that you find it a violation though.  I just don't.

This is, I think, one of those cultural differences that exist in SL. Immersionist vs. Augmentationist, for instance, but also those who identify with their avatar, and those who see it merely as a sort of cypher or marker, empty of real meaning. I suspect that most people are probably located somewhere in the middle of that particular spectrum. I do identify with my avatar, quite strongly, and she has a reasonably stable visual identity that reflects that fact -- but I also recognize that my virtual embodiment, while analogous in some ways to my RL body, is not the same thing in many critical respects. Just as "dancing" in SL is not RL "dancing," and SL sex is very different from RL sex.

I don't myself think that this is a question of "right" or "wrong." The meanings that are generated by code rendered by software are always going to be of our own making: my avatar is really a long series of binary numbers, after all, but the very fact that we are all here, and finding meaning in those numbers, suggests that we are all, to some degree, buying into a digital illusion (if you like), or lending meaningful significance to the digital (which is my preferred way of thinking about it).

The word that you used, "respect," is key, and I love that you used it. I am able to get along with friends in SL who have a different approach to it precisely because we are respectful of those differences.

Where it all becomes problematic -- and this evidently does not apply to you -- is when someone insists upon everyone accepting their particular understanding of digital existence. A good example would be those who simply laugh off the distress someone else may feel at being griefed in a way that violates virtual privacy or embodiment because "Hey, it's just a game!" Not everyone feels that way, and those feelings are as valid as any other.

It's once again about civility, I guess: respecting (that wonderful word!) someone else's perspective even while holding firm to one's own.

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Damn, can I be in the secret club? I'll bring refreshments to the meetings, and I'm decent at taking notes. 👀 

But as for the topic, I also have the same mentality that while pure privacy isn't really guaranteed in a virtual world like SL, it's still social etiquette to behave as if it was. In RL, you'd get the police called on you for going into a store's fitting rooms and being a peeping tom. In SL if you cam'd over to watch someone's avatar getting undressed behind a fitting room curtain, there's really not much anyone could do about it -- but it's still seen as socially unacceptable to do, because you're generally expected to give people their privacy out of respect. But I guess as long as you don't send creepy IMs to the person and just oggle them for your own personal reasons, no one will ever know (unless LookAts are-- nvm, not even getting into that again LOL). Laws in RL regarding invading people's privacy don't really carry over into SL or other virtual/online worlds, but our social behaviors (for the most part) do.

Personally I just rent a cheap little L$50/week skybox apartment because all I really need out of it is a place to rez, texture clothes, take pictures, and have a somewhat "private" place to myself for adjusting my avatar, trying on new clothes/heads/bodies, etc, as well as a peaceful place to AFK so I'm not in anyone's way. But this means the landmark right into my living room is publicly available at the renter's office should anyone happen to click on the dot for my particular skybox, so I understand there's always the possibility someone could pop in at any time. 🤷‍♀️ But, I really don't care about it that much to justify spending more L$ on a more private home.

While I'm only a year old in SL, I'm certainly not new to online communities and the one I was a part of for over a decade was an extremely toxic environment where private messages were never kept private. Everyone knew everyone else's dirty laundry because everyone enjoyed the gossip way too much, and I learned very quickly to never say anything in "private" that I wouldn't ever want to be made public -- because it often would be as soon as you had the slightest form of disagreement with that person. I'd been in that community since I was about 14 years old, so I guess that mentality really shaped how I feel about the expectation of online/virtual social privacy - that it's all a delicate illusion that we keep up out of respect, and could just as easily tear it down anytime we feel like it.

Edited by LilNosferatu
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1 hour ago, Rowan Amore said:

My son will do the last one.

My dad wanted it under for whatever reason so I grew up thinking that's how it should be.  Old habits and all that...

In my bathroom, (yes, I have my own and he has his lol) it wouldn't matter if it weren't for the fact that it is located on the wall opposite instead of beside. So, putting it under would put it juuuuuuuust out of reach.

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Stop laughing. 🤓

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3 hours ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Your last sentence is really interesting. Arguably, we have affordances in SL that make it easier to be private here than in RL, surely? I've often wished I could block and mute people in RL, for instance!

To some degree, isn't it true that the maintenance of privacy in both virtual and physical worlds is part of a social contract into which most of us enter, and by which most of us abide? It's a "pretense" in that it can be violated, but so much of our lives as social creatures is based on such contracts.

There are times in RL when we have less privacy than we'd like to think too, so in these situations we also continue the pretense of privacy. I've worked in a job where there were cameras in most of the work areas (pharmaceutical production), but one ignores them after awhile for the post part. Employers can sometimes read our emails or even track our keystrokes on work computers, yet we still use the computers for non-work communications. One does not comment on another person's bathroom noises or on their overheard phone conversations. I currently live with 2 housemates in RL, so any of us could snoop into another person's bedroom, but social convention requires that we don't. I once had a roommate who would look over my landlady's shoulder when she was dressing her avatar or on a date in SL and comment on her avatar's appearance, like saying she looked hot! -- In SL and RL there are always some people who either don't understand social conventions or who choose to ignore them.

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10 hours ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

What are threats to privacy in SL?

The biggest threat to your privacy is yourself.

10 hours ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

And what are potential, or even just partial, solutions to these that might be of assistance to those who want more privacy?

The user decides how much about their private lives they wish to disclose with whom. Anything you say to someone else in SL will reveal something about yourself. Your typos, your mannerisms, choice of words, everything's a clue. You'd have to be a really good and consistent method actor to mask all that. But then you would want to ask yourself: would I want to live in a constant and total lie in SL?

Also, LL can only protect the user up to a certain level. Among other things, through community guidelines that prohibit people to disclose third party RL data. But that's 'only' at the penalty of being banned from SL, not a preventative measure.

In the end, I believe there's a whole spectrum between total privacy and total exposure. Everyone will have to find a middle way for themselves. Decide on the conditions under which they can trust someone else to create a more intimate bond. And just like real life, most are lucky in their relationships with others, some aren't.

 

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I currently have 2 homes in SL. One is my Linden Home. Here I have parcel avatar visibility turned off,  and the Linden security system which I tend to activate only when indulging in something adult-rated, in order to comply with the rules of Moderate land. I do occasionally forget to turn the security back off when I'm done. I don't really care if people visit while I'm not there, it's not like they can steal anything or leave a mess, but I do feel a bit miffed if people use my sex furniture. My home isn't a free sex venue and I'm not running a charity, go buy your own. So everything with adult animations is set to group, and if it doesn't have that facility, I don't leave it out when I'm done with it.

The other home is a skybox on an estate island which is open to the public. It's not even subdivided into parcels. I have no expectations of privacy here and no interest in changing it, as the region is owned by someone who recently passed away, so when the tier runs out, which I believe is next month, the plug will be pulled on it anyway.  That said, I did get an uninvited visitor in my skybox there last week, who was promptly added to the ban list.

The only privacy I really need in SL is privacy of my real life details, and even then, I am only concerned about that which can be used to identify me (real name, address, date of birth etc). I am fairly open about most things, the (large) city where I live, when my birthday is (though I purposefully lie about the year). I'll happily chat about life events and that sort of thing. I don't voice because I hate how my voice sounds, and I hate listening to other people chewing, coughing, burping, yelling at their kids and pets etc.

 

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15 hours ago, Profaitchikenz Haiku said:

No idea, nobody's ever said anything about it.

So your friends are presumably aware of your own approach to SL, and respect that. Which, obviously, is a great thing.

One does occasionally hear tales of "friends" who demand a certain level of accessibility, because their notions of what constitutes a "friendship" (which, in SL, can vary hugely obviously from close romantic/sexual partner to a quick connection of convenience) differ from one's own. I have a really wide range of different "kinds" of friends, but I don't recall having run across any of them ever demanding that I be more accessible, less private, etc. But I think some do.

16 hours ago, Profaitchikenz Haiku said:

ocation and behaviour patterns probably dictate what one requires by way of privacy anyway. I wouldn't go to a club, for example, because standing silently in the midst of a throng of hail-fellow-well-met people would be off-putting to them.

Which is, after all, much like RL I think: context often determines the degree of privacy expected, or available. I wouldn't jump into a mosh pit expecting people to maintain 2 metres of personal space around me, for instance. (Actually, I wouldn't jump into a mosh pit period: my days of being physically battered and bounced around in a throng of dancers are probably over at this point in my life.)

And maybe this comes back again to the idea of a social contract: we "agree" to abide by the particular social conventions that we've come to associate with particular contexts. What seems a violation of privacy in one context is the accepted norm in another. And possibly the differences between some of those contexts is lost on some, who are offended by "violations" of their privacy that are, in fact, the accepted practice in the particular milieu in which they find themselves?

Take the instance of cross hairs, which you allude to. Honestly, personally, I couldn't care less (except maybe in the instance of something like upskirting, and I've never detected that happening using that particular affordance). If one goes to a club that is particularly well-known as a hook-up place, then, well, you're being a bit of an idiot if you don't expect people's cross hairs to be trained on you at some point. It's not merely part of the culture of such places, but an almost necessary adjunct of the place's function.

16 hours ago, Profaitchikenz Haiku said:

These can all be minimised by examining what you do and how you do it. Choose where you go, choose who your friends are, choose what you make yourself available for, and try not to react immediately when something unexpected crops up.

I think this is true, particularly in regard to particular types of social gathering space, as I suggested above about clubs. But I'd want to add the caveat (which I don't think you're actually excluding) that the onus isn't, or shouldn't be, entirely on oneself. The flip side of the idea that we should expect certain kinds of loss of privacy in certain contexts is also that we should expect others to abide by the conventions that also restrict the degree of intrusion. I can expect to see crosshairs on my avatar at a club -- but I'd be entirely within my rights to be offended if someone there derendered my clothing.

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11 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Take the instance of cross hairs, which you allude to. Honestly, personally, I couldn't care less (except maybe in the instance of something like upskirting, and I've never detected that happening using that particular affordance). If one goes to a club that is particularly well-known as a hook-up place, then, well, you're being a bit of an idiot if you don't expect people's cross hairs to be trained on you at some point. It's not merely part of the culture of such places, but an almost necessary adjunct of the place's function.

 

Part of the reason I keep other people's crosshairs turned off is because I know I'll be disappointed when I see that no-one is looking at me.

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Just now, Maitimo said:

Part of the reason I keep other people's crosshairs turned off is because I know I'll be disappointed when I see that no-one is looking at me.

Tell me about it.

I think I have an attractive avatar, but not a stunning "OMG WHO IS THIS VISION?!?!?!?" sort of look. I don't think I turn heads when I walk into room -- and that's evidenced by the fact that that head-moving eye-tracking thing never seems to kick in on anyone's avi when I enter a club or busy gallery. 😏

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It may seem odd but being in my avatar's personal space bothers me far more than anyone looking at me.  SL being a mostly visual medium, it's expected that people are looking around.  Yes, I've even noticed cams locked on various areas of my avatar.  That honestly doesn't creep me out as much as someone walking up and standing right up near me.  

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After thinking about this overnight there is one privacy feature that I wish SL would implement and that is to be able to appear completely offline and the ability to log in invisible.  Of course the viewers have that capability but we all know that you can show up on radar or on HUD's you purchase from the marketplace so you are never completely showing offline.  The way SL is coded I don't even know if this would be a possibility. 

The only time this affected me was when I unchecked everyone on my list because while I wanted to be online I didn't particularly want to socialize with anyone and was just there to listen to some music and sort my inventory.  Of course someone saw me on radar that was on my friend's list and got all upset that I wasn't showing online and they assumed I was up to no good and promptly blocked me after informing me that they don't associate with "game players" This was more their problem than mine though but it would have been nice to avoid it. Most likely they would have accused me of being offline all day on purpose so I'm not sure this would have solved that problem anyway.

Whether this would ever be implemented or not isn't that big of a deal but it was something I thought of. Too often I've noticed that once you meet someone, mainly of the opposite sex, all of a sudden they have this expectation of wanting to know exactly when you'll be online and an hour by hour schedule of your activities after knowing you a few days.  I'm not sure if other people have this experience or if it's just me but it quickly makes me NOT want to spend time with them.

Edited by Sam1 Bellisserian
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I've been thinking about Scylla's original post and I've realised something that I hadn't fully appreciated before: somebody's expectations of privacy in SL are probably based on their expectations in RL. Think about it.

In RL, people don't walk into your home uninvited, unless they're intent on criminal activity.

In RL, people don't install spy-cameras in somebody's house to watch what they're up to (unless they're an official or unofficial state-sponsored agency)

I suspect that for a lot of people, the realisation that in SL there is zero privacy might come as a shock. It's not what they're used to.

Edited by Profaitchikenz Haiku
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3 minutes ago, Sam1 Bellisserian said:

After thinking about this overnight there is one privacy feature that I wish SL would implement and that is to be able to appear completely offline and the ability to log in invisible.  Of course the viewers have that capability but we all know that you can show up on radar or on HUD's you purchase from the marketplace so you are never completely showing offline.  The way SL is coded I don't even know if this would be a possibility. 

The only time this affected me was when I unchecked everyone on my list because while I wanted to be online I didn't particularly want to socialize with anyone and was just there to listen to some music and sort my inventory.  Of course someone saw me on radar that was on my friend's list and got all upset that I wasn't showing online and they assumed I was up to no good and promptly blocked me after informing me that they don't associate with "game players" This was more their problem than mine though but it would have been nice to avoid it. Most likely they would have accused me of being offline all day on purpose so I'm not sure this would have solved that problem anyway.

Whether this would ever be implemented or not isn't that big of a deal but it was something I thought of. Too often I've noticed that once you meet someone, mainly of the opposite sex, all of a sudden they have this expectation of wanting to know exactly when you'll be online and an hour by hour schedule of your activities after knowing you a few days.  I'm not sure if other people have this experience or if it's just me but it quickly makes me NOT want to spend time with them.

Totally agree and would also add, stop showing payment info.  THAT to me is a major privacy issue and basically RL personal information.

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