Age verification – the facts

In order to try and clear up some confusion and misconceptions relating the the upcoming Adult Content changes within Second Life, particularly around the question of age verification, I put out a NC to friends and members of my personal Group in-world recently, and thought it would be a good idea to reproduce (and expand) upon it here.

Why is Verification Required?

Because Linden Lab is making substantial changes to the way in which Second Life operates, particularly in reference to “adult content”. The details can be found elsewhere, however for the purposes of this blog entry, suffice it to say that part of the changes will result in land – and the sim level – gaining two new flags “Adult” and “Age Verified” and changes to filter-out “adult” material from SL in-world searches.

What kinds of Verification are there?

Blondin Linden, in replying to questions from Couldbe Yue, indicates there will be two means of being verified, and that for the moment it would appear to be an “either / or” situation:

  • Account verification requires a user to have payment information on file (PIOF) or Payment information used (PIU) in-world, or have given their payment details to XStreetSL. This will be sufficient to provide access to all adult-related content with the exception of land flagged with Age Verification.
  • Age verification requires (as it always has) verification via the Integrity Aristotle system. This will provide access to all adult content within SL, including land flagged as requiring Age Verification.

There are a couple of flaws in this arrangement that may yet lead to changes:

  • Some credit card companies (e.g Visa) have effectively decoupled age verification from their criteria and terms of use. So the use of credit card details as a verification of age is potentially problematical for Linden Lab going forward as Visa (the largest supplier of credit cards in the world) now give no guarantee as to the age of card users
  • The “Age verification” flag appears to be down to the land owner to set; it is difficult to see many situations where this will be the case, as few will likely want to put users off of visiting their land by making them go through the Aristotle Integrity verification process.

So it is entirely possible things may further change between now and the end of June.

The Age Verification Process

The only means at present of age verification is via Aristotle Integrity using the Age Verification link on your My Account page of the SecondLife website. While there are concerns – rightly so – about the system’s ability to verify accurate / inaccurate information & whether it is actually an effective means of ring-fencing a service, I don’t intend to enter that debate. All I’d like to do here is clear up a few misconceptions relating to the service that seem to be circulating.

  • “Aristotle breaks EU law”. No. Integrity is used in every major country in the the EU. Of the top 10 countries employing the software, 6 are EU nations: UK, the Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain
  • “The information is US-centric and doesn’t apply anywhere else”. No. Set your country of origin when completing the form, and then select the verification criteria applicable to your country
  • “You don’t know what information is being stored / datamined”. Linden Lab state outright that no personal information is stored by either Linden Lab or Aristotle-Integrity, the only caveat being “that [which] is required by law, i.e. pursuant to a law enforcement investigation and proper legal process”

Things (good and bad) to bear in mind:

  • The system is currently accepted by some 152 countries worldwide as a “safe” means of verification
  • The process is a simple secure system to secure system check. The data you provide is ostensibly validated against government-held information relating to you. This does not result in further information relating to you being passed by Integrity or any information about you being passed to Linden Lab. It results in a simple “tick-in-the-box” that you are age verified
  • While Aristotle as a company have had certification under the EU / US Safe Harbour data policy, the certification is currently listed as not current
  • It’s pretty easy to fool the system – Elvis Presley appears to be one of the most frequently-verified people to have used Integrity.

Yes, there are broader concerns relating to Aristole as a company and the use of more detailed information it captures. But again, these need to be balanced against several factors, including a) the actual information being asked for as a part of this verification process, and b) the systems referred to in articles such as the Vanity Fair link relate not to Integrity, but to Aristotle’s other products.

But – if you are concerned, there is an easy answer: don’t use Age Verification; it is very probable that the majority of “Adult” access will be set to “Account Verified” rather than “Age Verified” – at least initially.

Hope this clears things up a little!

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