“Privacy is extremely important for anyone putting themselves out there, expressing themselves, or expressing a side of themselves through an avatar. People don’t want other people to connect the dots from their avatar to their real life person – or even, for that matter, to an alt. One of the ethical obligations we have is to protect people’s privacy
“People come to Second Life because they want a story, they want to be in a story….and we have an ethical obligation to protect that.
“I’m not so sure that the conventional wisdom makes any sense. Yes, it might be technically easy to track people and all that. But in the long-term I’m optimistic that we’ll see the pendulum swing back in the other direction towards more privacy.”
Thus speaks Rod Humble in what is quite possibly the best interview held with him since he took office at Linden Lab, and Kudos to Dusan Writer for bringing it to us.
It’s an uplifting piece on many levels. The comments about privacy, for example, are particularly relevant given both the degree to which Linden Lab seems determined to shovel users of Second Life towards Facebook and the manner in which data is being scraped and potentially used by the likes of RedZone.
For me, the interview is encouraging, as I’ve been advocating the need for Linden Lab to take what I term a more holistic view of Second Life, and to stop looking at it in terms of how it can be “compartmentalised”: focusing on individual technical issues, trying to tap into audiences, etc., and start looking at it as a complete, unified entity. In fact, I’ve already had concerns that Rod Humble is sliding into this very trap.
But no, he does seem to get it: he recognises the fact that the magic of Second Life is about the ability to create – physically and metaphorically (he talks about us being able to create “personas” in SL and imbue them with specific identities) – and he really does demonstrate he’s thought about these ideas, and is not simply peddling words.
Similarly, he recognises that Second Life can increase its relevancy in terms of real world interactions by providing n-world and supportive tools that work with the platform to empower people to interact with one another through Second Life (rather than telling them to bugger off elsewhere).
This is marvellously encouraging. Of course, there is a degree of hyperbole that strays dangerously close to Rosedale Country; after making very valid points about the relevancy in having multiple personas in life (which we all do), and these personas / identities being an integral part of our being (a marked difference from Zuckerberg over at FB, who views multiple identities as demonstrating a “lack of integrity”), Rod does unfortunately slip into Pipspeak:
“I don’t want to get all geeky about it, but I sort of see this day coming when there’s a formalization of identity that happens. We haven’t had the tools before to formalize our broken up bits of identity…We can increasingly go deep on each element of identity and they become more valuable and I can’t help thinking that if we formalize the structures around those identities and have the tools to do that it might actually change us – it might change the person.”
Shades of Transhumanism lurking there – but not enough to shake one’s feeling that here, finally, Linden lab have struck gold. Rod Humble not only gets Second Life technically, he gets it visually, socially, personally, and metaphorically. In short, he appears to understand it holistically.
Lets hope that understanding translates itself into policies and action that allow us all to look back in 12 months or so, and we”ll all be “talking about all the new kinds of content and creations and categories of creation…and say ‘Wow, it’s amazing, look how far we’ve come in having ways to make stuff‘.” And that we’re all secure and confident in the levels of privacy and security Second Life affords us.