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  Discrimination Tools Coming to ‘Second Life’?  
Posted 2006-06-25 by Tony Walsh
Residents of Second Life may soon be split into "Verified" and "Unverified" classes, thanks to an updated registration system by virtual-world maker Linden Lab. With the old system, a credit-card or other identity-verification system was required to register. These requirements were dropped early in June, 2006, allowing users without any identifying information to enter the virtual world. The changes inspired debate and, in some cases, protest, among Second Life residents, many of whom felt that a flood of unverified entrants into the virtual world would increase the likelihood of bad behaviour. The updated system (apparently implemented over the weekend of June 24-25) allows users to link their avatar with a payment system (such as a credit card) in order to verify their identities.

Linden Lab's VP of Community and Support wrote last week that "We recognize that for you to want to stay in Second Life you need to have confidence in the whole system. I believe that means you need to believe that you can control your experience, and also trust in Linden Lab to provide the means to do that. When faced with anonymous users who don't have the stake in Second Life that [residents] do, that confidence, and trust, is breached." The company's solution is to create two classes of user. According to Linden Lab, "Verified" status indicates a registrant has submitted valid identification and payment to the company "and that [registrants] presumably have some commitment to Second Life."

I don't think it's logical to presume that because one has paid for an experience, that one is committed to it. This dubious logic could easily be flipped around to indicate that because one hasn't paid for an experience, one is not committed to it. With a "Verified" and "Unverified" split, Linden Lab has effectively said that registrants are "Committed" and "Uncommitted." This is a class system of opposites defined by whether or not one is willing or able to pay Linden Lab.

Currently it appears that one's verification status is invisible, however, some suggest that this data may be headed for avatars' public profiles. If verification data is made overtly visible or accessible through user-created software scripts, I believe a rift among Second Life's two classes of resident will result. Verified users are the upper class, seen as committed and trustworthy. Unverified users are the lower class, comprised of have-nots or will-nots, who are inherently suspect because they are, according to Linden Lab's reasoning, uncommitted to Second Life. It's a bit like a real-world country establishing optional, national identity cards. I can see this as a slippery slope: "If you have nothing to hide, why not opt in?" could easily become "If you're not with us, you're against us."
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Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
June 25, 2006 @ 12:49 pm
It's not really a class system, it feels more like LL handing the task of verifying age and identity to the residents and saying "we're not going to do anything, *you* sort it out". Except that of course unless we wish to shut ourselves up in (laggy) scripted pillboxes it's still worse than the old system. Most new people will come in on unverified accounts now - why not? - and public places would be insane to ban them, so griefing will continue.

It might help mollify those who are concerned about being sued for selling a prim dong to a 13-year-old but (a) that's terrifically unlikely anyway and (b) it shouldn't be something that they are required to verify, on an adult grid.

It could certainly have a social effect, though I don't know how much more than just checking someone's SL age (which you can already do by script - I wrote a PoC script that automatically banned anyone under a certain age from a parcel) but really I think it's about abandoning responsibility, and I'm not keen on it.
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
June 25, 2006 @ 6:50 pm
It is a caste system, and it brings Snowcrash to fruition -- there are the fancy avatars who appear brightly who code the entire thing and have cool crossed-swords on their back, and then there are the grey avatars who log in from "public terminals" and who appear grey or wear standard-issue Ken and Barbie outfits.

What's worse, Tony, is that the Lindens are also promising the ability to mass-ban people from your land on the basis of this verified/unverified status. Awful. I immediately announced that I will rent to any class of customers, verified, semi-verified, or verified (they're to have 3 classes). There are lots of people who come in SL and make their money-making entirely inworld, either at casinos, contests or with various jobs. They never buy Lindens or put in a CC.

I think it's really ironic that these folks advocating turning SL into more of something like the World Wide Web (web not world) and removing barriers to the web, and creating ease of account registration and even dangling the hope of open-source and host-your-own are the very same people very busy making the population move to private islands, and put up as many filtration devices as they can to ban, mute, even disappear. Ultimatly, they really love the idea of being able to shut out the view and prims of anyone you don't like. There will be no commonality.

What will happen is that many free accounts (basics) will get the semi-verification because they'll want to buy Lindens possibly even with only a pre-paid credit card or something shy of what full verification might mean (we still don't know the details). This class of people will be called "blingtards". Those who don't even get that semi-verification will be marked as "griefers".

"Committed" or "Uncommitteed" -- sheesh, it's like a cult.
Comment posted by Eric Rice
June 25, 2006 @ 7:32 pm
This makes my own virtual life interesting as I've created a couple alts for administrivia purposes. I'm limited on groups--and admin alts, and need to have a semi-NPC roles for all these miscellaneous things surrounding music or club operations. These alts don't own land, never will, and might admin a group since I'm consistently maxxed out. I use them for artistic purposes, photography, filmmaking and other non-active roles. (let alone client avatars, who are coming in to take a first person look)

The new model of flagging verified/unverified, becomes a concern if I can't take these 'performance alts' to places where unverifieds are banned, even though these avs might be known to be associated with me, a trusted, non-anonymous source.

None of my areas will be restricted to unverifieds... unless something gets out way way of hand. (Well except for Jessie, where we can grief back heh)
Comment posted by Gary Hayes
June 25, 2006 @ 8:15 pm
My thoughts too Eric. I am amazed how many 'performance' alts one begins to collect and I need to take them wherever I need to without barriers.

On the bigger issue about SL fracturing into two societies - I blogged about this very issue last week (Smashing Down Second Lifes 4th Wall in terms of the overt marketing that is happening but also because of the likely 'tidal wave' of new accounts who will have no personal investment in SL. This will obviously increase traffic but will for the permanent, land owning residents cause more annoyances as non verfified newbies skip orientation and have no recourse to any authority - LL washing their hands. Yesterday I found two one day old newbies in my lounge watching my videos - they had no profiles, didn't have any respect that this was a personal space and I hate turning on alarms etc: Enough in-world stuff. Finally I noted on my post that SL may split into a Bladerunner'esque two tier society of haves (sky boxes at 600m etc) and those scrambling around as an un-verified, anarchistic sub-culture.

Perhaps this is what LL wants...more reason to buy land to get away from the herd.
Comment posted by Secureplay
June 26, 2006 @ 7:45 am
Stranger & stranger - I thought one of the motivators for concern about unregistered users was their ability to create denial of service attacks against SL. If that is the case, this does absolutely nothing to address the issue.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
June 26, 2006 @ 3:21 pm
It has occurred to me that it's possible to self-verify in an unofficial way, simply by reciprocally linking one's avatar with one's web site. Of course, this doesn't help if people are blanket-banning all Unverifieds... just thinking out loud...
Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
June 26, 2006 @ 4:52 pm
In other guises on the net I do that on a regular basis - I have a domain name with an "identity" page which says "I have username X on wikipedia, see my user page", and then my user page on wikipedia says "I generally go by the name Y, here is the page that confirms that". I got sick of waiting for a generalised open protocol for verifying consistent identity to take off, so I did it manually.

I've watched a few programs such as OpenID (which Livejournal uses) but they're not really broadly operational yet. You might want to take a look at that if you've not already, though. Decentralised verification is ithe way to go.

It doesn't help within one world though. I could put up a page on which listed all my alts if it came down to it, and their profiles could include a link back. (I only have one alt incidentally who doesn't appear very often.) But only a very few people have their own domain names or could be bothered to do something like that.

Secureplay: grid attacks were not really the issue with unregistered users, it was more in-world griefing and underage users that I heard people complaining about. If one is out to crash the grid it's not likely to be that hard to also set up a fake account with a different IP using a new credit card. That just adds to the challenge.
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