TOS - privacy and RL

Ok. So. How many of us have actually read the SL TOS? I can't be sure but I think most people click accept and go on their merry way without ever stopping to read the rules. Because of some icky interpersonal behavior I have witnessed recently I have been thinking a lot about how we treat each other inworld.

Some things people do *all the time* concern me because as I read the TOS they are violations so serious you could be permanently banned as a result. In section 4.1, Conduct by Users of Second Life, we are advised "you shall not...

"take any action or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content as determined by Linden Lab at its sole discretion that is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, causes tort, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable."


"Any violation by you of the terms of the foregoing sentence may result in immediate and permanent suspension or cancellation of your Account. You agree that Linden Lab may take whatever steps it deems necessary to abridge, or prevent behavior of any sort on the Service in its sole discretion, without notice to you."

After reading the TOS and talking with people familiar with these sections, I understand that if you take an IM I send you and share it with someone else and you violate my privacy or in any way harm, harass or threaten me your account could be immediately and permanently cancelled. By its very nature IM is a private conversation so sharing IM is considered a violation of privacy.

Think about that a moment if you will. How many times has someone copied and pasted IM conversation they had with someone else and shared it with you? How many notecards have you seen where private IM conversations are quoted? How many times have you done these things yourself? insert wind noises.......crickets sounds....avatars looking around avoiding eye contact.....Yeah.

So, before you send me that IM where your neighbor's partner's new pet told you he is cybering your bff who you met last week at Bad Girls? Please remember sending someone's IM to you to anyone else is a TOS violation. Just.Don't.Do.It.

I have also been thinking about the issue of RL privacy. The first life tab of my profile tells you I am happily married and have two kids. If you are clever and you read the rest of my profile you can deduce that I am from New York. If you take an extra step and read this blog you can probably learn more about the RL person who drives my avatar. If you want to know anything else please take some time to get to know me and I will likely be open about who I am. Asking me direct personal RL questions may or may not get you a direct answer depending on my mood, what I had for breakfast, whether or not it is a good hair day, and/or if I trust you to hold my personal information in confidence.

Now that we have cleared that up I respectfully request that you do not ask me RL information about my friends and expect that I will tell you. Recently I have been stunned by the number of RL questions people are asking me -- not about myself mind you -- but about other people. Please? Just don't ask me. If you want to know about someones RL ask *them* or use your mad google skills and see what you can learn. I am not going to violate my friend's privacy and I am not going to intentionally violate the TOS. Thanks for your understanding on this one kids.


Dale Innis said...

Ooooh, pretty picture!

Yeah, one very typical "wow I'm such a newb" question is "where are you from?", followed closely by "how old are you?". I generally say "Hughes Rise" and "a bit over a year", and this gets me lots of blank looks. It's interesting though that lots of people have no problem at all answering (and asking) this kind of question; in some circles (TOS notwithstanding) we're the weirdos, not them.

On sending someone a copy of an IM: It's not immediately obvious to me that if someone curses me out in IM and I forward it to a friend saying omg what is with this person, that that violates the part of the TOS that you quoted. Is it obvious that it's invasive of the curser's privacy? It's not obvious to me.

Another part of the TOS (well, the CS) says "Remotely monitoring conversations, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without consent are all prohibited in Second Life", but that's pretty vague. Sharing logs without whose consent, exactly? All parties? Or (like many wiretapping laws) just the consent of one party? (In the case of IMs to me, my own consent for instance.)

It would seem really weird that I'm not allowed to share IMs that I get with my friends. Am I allowed to paraphrase? Quote a few words but not the whole thing? Seems crazy that someone can impose an obligation on me (to keep certain words that I've been given a secret) without my consenting to that obligation in advance, and having the opportunity to turn it down.

Not disagreeing with you here, so much as just wondering. Will have to dig into the Knowledge Base (shudder) or something, and see if that's expanded on anywhere...

Dale Innis said...

Well, that was easy research. :)

On "", the Knowledge Base first clarifies then muddies up the issue by first writing: "Sharing or posting a conversation inworld or in the Second Life Forums without consent of all involved Residents is a violation of the Terms of Service" (which is very clear, if creepy as noted above), and then writing 'Residents will not be punished for sharing or posting a comment such as "Bob Resident said, 'You're the greatest!'"'.

Say what? What does "such as" mean here? It is that it's short? Or that it's positive? Or that it's a single utterance? How utterly confusing...

chestnut rau said...

Dale I appreciate your comments, as always. For me the simple thing is to avoid complication by not sharing IMs, which are by definition private between two people.

Iona Nikolaidis said...

this is timely for me

Alanagh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dyerbrookME said...

These arbitrary, abusive, and overbroad TOS regulations are contrary to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court's rulings. They have no place in a liberal, democratic society.

You cede too much power to private corporations flogging these sorts of abusive TOS regulations.

In real-life, also on the Internet, if you copy and paste some comment from one person's email, and send it to another one, no one can do a damn thing to you. You're free to do so. Don't confuse ethics and law -- or even confuse ethics and practices that you just want your little posse to live by.

The reason people copy chatlogs in SL is because it's an unfree society with a secretive and authoritarian government without recourse. We can and should publish chatlogs as the only means of recourse we have against abusive behaviour. LL does not overreach to third-party sites that publish chatlogs and does not take action in regards to publishing on third-party sites. That's a good thing.


Zha said...

One thing to pay close attention to, is the distinction between restraint on speech, and restraint on various forms of behavior. My right to speak freely, does not grant me the right to slander someone, nor does it grant me free rights to invade their privacy.

Posting the public chat log of a public event strikes me as free speech. Sharing a private IM session, strikes me as far more akin to releasing a tape of a phone call. There are very clear privacy laws about the later in most real life jurisdictions. Silently taping someone, and then sharing the tape, violates a lot of these laws.

I tend to agree that in some areas, the Terms of Service, like many things concocted by lawyers, to protect a corporation from liability, over-reach. Requiring people to respect each other's privacy, in a way that closely echo's our real life expectations of privacy, doesn't happen to feel like one of them.

~ Zha

Jordyn Carnell said...

personally.. I never share without permission.. and if something comes to me it doesn't get past me.

(logs can be doctored ya know)

Oh.. and I also give people the benefit of the doubt.