Grid “merger”: precipitating the identity link?

I’ve been bouncing around looking at reactions to the announced “grid merger” in SL – or more correctly, allowing 16 and 17 year-olds onto the Main grid – both here and elsewhere. Specifically, I’ve been looking at people’s thoughts on the potential additional risks such a move forces adult users of Second Life to face.

In the thread linked to above, Cabbage Acanthus and Derek Torvalar hit on two of my major concerns respectively, the matter of public perception and the legal ramifications people might face as a result in-world activities (the latter of which will clearly vary depending on one’s nation of residence), or which might equally cause panic / confusion.

In the same thread, Carole Franizzi touches on the core element of both of these concerns: that of identity. As it stands, we simply have absolutely no way of vetting for ourselves that whoever we are dealing with in Second Life are who they claim to be (i.e. of a given gender and over a certain age).

Until now, this hasn’t been an issue, and when LL themselves have tried to slide things towards a more direct linking of SL and RL identities, there has been an enormous – and in some ways, justified – push back against such moves. But allowing minors into the Main grid clearly changes things; particularly as much of the direct legal onus for verifying who we are dealing with on-line fall on each of us individually – as Derek’s quote from Canadian law illustrates.

It is true that since Wallace’s faux pas on the subject of such linking, LL have been careful to caveat any potential moves towards it as being something users will be able to at least opt out of, and Mark Kingdon went out of his way to expressly state as much on numerous occasions.

But will this now remain the case? Could it be that as minors are allowed into the Main grid LL will find the adult population (and by that term, I mean all of us using SL, rather than any given segment of the community)  potentially more willing to see RL information being displayed alongside SL information, if it helps verify people are indeed who they say they are?

I’m not for a moment suggesting this is in any way why the “merger” is happening – but one has to admit, in looking at the broader implications, it could have some “interesting” knock-on effects, intended or not.