thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Privacy in Online Games - from ID Cards to Tinfoil Hats

As you will have read by now, Linden Labs is trying to introduce a government-issued identity token in Second Life in order to get rid of adults playing young-looking avatars (hint: in Second Life, "playing" seems to mean "having sex" nowadays, at least according to most journalists and of course the security politicians). Now everybody wonders how they want to do this - at least if you read the announcement:
The verification system will be run by a third party specializing in age and identity authentication. No personally identifying information will be stored by them or by Linden Lab, including date of birth, unless the Resident chooses to do so. Those who wish to be verified, but remain anonymous, are free to do so.
There seem to be some problems with finding such a vendor, but identitfication as a means of control of virtual worlds is certainly seeing growing interest. But resistance against this has also been vocal.

Now, for the more funny part: World of Warcraft recently launched “The Armory”,

a vast searchable database of information for World of Warcraft - taken straight from the real servers, updated in real time, and presented in a user-friendly interface. Since the Armory pulls its data from the actual game servers, it is the most comprehensive and up-to-date database on the characters, arena teams, and guilds of World of Warcraft in existence.

But the privacy warriors are fighting back. You now can get a tinfoil hat with some very nice specs:
Besides keeping the wearer safe from mind spies and the thought police, it also removes the wearer's character profile from the World of Warcraft Armory to further guarantee that no one will be able to divine all of the wearer's tightly held secrets. Furthermore, wearers of the Tinfoil Hat will not show up in /who listings, and they will also be immune to inspection from other players.
Look at this hilarious picture. It's of course a joke, but a nice one.

(The part on WoW via Kaliya Hamlin)


Blogger Karen said...

In fact in SL they strongly recommend that you provide an accurate DOB today as they use this information for the password reset if needed. Of course you don't need to, however, I bet most SL residents do. I would expect the same type of pressure will be applied by the third-party of this verification system.

Incidentally my interpretation (as a SL resident myself) is that 'playing' does not necessarily imply virtual sex. There are many residents that spend time on other activities. E.g. an engineer (in RL) building his dream house on his dream island in SL. There are many other compelling reasons to be in SL, e.g. networking, language skills, are a couple that I've come across myself.

25/6/07 10:57


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