Slip-sliding away

Today, in theory, we should see something on policy relating to data mining in Second Life – or at least what amounts to being “private” data & how it can be used.

As reported last night, LL has changed the wording of the Section 4 of the Community Standards – but frankly, this is not enough.

zFire Xue himself is busily informing his followers that he is working on ways to – essentially – render the new CS null and void. While we do not know what, if any, conversations have been held between Mr. Xue and Linden Lab, it is clear from some of the posts on his own forum that he fails to grasp the precedent of formal consent over implied consent – in much the same way that those with statement in their Profiles relating to their ability to freely disseminate IM conversations fail to grasp this fundamental point. An example of this failure to comprehend comes in his statement that if people do not respond to a request for consent to be “background checked” then they “have given their consent” and the check will be enabled.

This is akin to saying that a vandal is entitled to kick the glass out of someone’s front door because they failed to answer it within 60 seconds of the bell being rung. The vandal may think it is OK – but the authorities are liable to inform him otherwise.

Elsewhere, Xue mob rail against the upcoming media patch that has been accepted into Phoenix, resulting in some vile and outright threatening posts being made – so much so that Jessica Lyons herself was prompted to step into the fray, thus:

“I guess it’s time to make a formal post here. While I may control the official position of the Phoenix Viewer Project on matters such as this, I do not control and would make no attempt to control the opinions of the members on this team. That is to say, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and EVERYONE has an opinion… Internally.. we have team members in favor of Rz, and team members against it… Those opinions do NOT reflect the official position of the Project as a whole.

“The official position of the Phoenix Viewer Project in regards to the Redzone matter, is neutral.. The project is not in favor of.. nor against Rz. There are valid arguments on both sides of this fence and we will not take sides.

“However, we as a team have discussed at great lengths and agreed that users should have the right to control what connections their viewer or computer make to the internet. Because of this, we have accepted and are currently improving a patch that was submitted to us which provides the user a partial url string to which they can allow or deny a connection.

“When a user enters a parcel that has a media url, and they have media enabled and the “Media Filter” option enabled, it will prompt the user before allowing the connection and say “The owner of this parcel has requested media at the following location to be loaded by your viewer”… The URL will be parsed beyond the domain, example… “http://sim4328.agni.lindenlab.com:……/…. php?…. /…. “

“We feel this implementation provides acceptable privacy for both the visitors and the stream owners by not giving out the full URL. The visitor can then choose to Allow, Deny, Black list, White list. This feature can be enabled or disabled completely by the user in media preferences. The black list and white list will be shipped empty.

“Now, while Redzone users may feel this feature is targeting Redzone.. and no amount of statement by me may change that opinion to which you are all entitled too.. I will again state the purpose of this feature for the record. “To provide the user the ‘Right’ to control what connections their viewer makes to the internet.” This is of course no different than the purpose of any firewall.”

[with thanks to Hitomi Tipomi]

And she is absolutely correct. The risks in leaving the Viewer in its “default” mode are legion when it comes to potential abuse through the media stream. As such, providing the user who opts to have media turned on with a media to review and accept incoming media streams is not “helping the copybotters and griefers” – not in the slightest. It is about protecting SL users and their computers. Period.

Henri Beauchamp also understands this, releasing as he does today an update to his Cool VL Viewer:

“Cool VL Viewer v1.25.0.23 (stable branch, Snowglobe v1.5-based)

“New in this release:

  • New MediaFilter patch: based on a patch by Sione Lomu, this (largely) reworked patch allows you to authorize or deny individual media and audio streams. See this message for full details.
  • Updated SLPluginAndMediaFixes patch: this new version fixes the internal web browser “cache” folder quirk which caused the latter to be written at the root of your filesystem (“/cache” in Linux, “c:\cache” in Windows). See this thread for details.
  • Updated ContextMenuTextEntry patch: this new version improves the context menu of input lines and text entries by greying out automatically unavailable actions in the menu (for example, disabling “Copy” when no text is selected).
  • Updated RevertUIchanges patch: changed to cope with the new MediaFilter patch.
  • Updated CoolPreferences patch: changed to implement the options related to the MediaFilter patch (in the “Miscellaneous” sub-tab of the “Cool features” tab: new checkbox and “Reset filters” button).
  • Updated CoolVLViewerBranding patch: Sione Lomu added to the contributors list.

“Enjoy ! 

[with thanks to Innula Zenovka for raising this.]

Doubtless, this will also make Henri a “supporter of griffers” (or “Greenzoners” as the term now appears to be).  All I can say is: kudos for him in giving his users the freedom of choice. I look forward to seeing more 1.x TPVs making the patch available and – hopefully – the coding being ported to 2.x TPVs.

Personally, I have media disabled on my computer – and I’ll continue to do so moving forward (although I might give the patch a try once it is available in a Phoenix release). Of course, admitting this doubtless confirms to Mr. Xue and his Crackerjack followers that I’m a “copybotter and griefer” (or indeed “griffer”, as they insist on spelling it).

The fact that I have media disabled because a) I simply do not and almost never have watch a video stream in-world (other than just after my return to SL), and therefore never have had media streaming turned on; and b) I actually prefer having my own music playing over the stereo while in-world, as 98% of “music” played in stores usually gives me a dose of the screaming heebee geebees; is something that Xue et al will not accept as being my right.

But then, it is more fitting for these people to adopt the mob mentality and loudly proclaim that anyone with media turned off does so “because they have something to hide”, because the right of the user to make a choice in what they do and how they go about their Second Life is precisely what Xue and his Crackerjack crowd want to try and prevent. Not because it means that those using RedZone will no longer be able to “protect” their stores and business (RedZone is already an abject failure in this regard, so ’nuff said). No. The reason that Xue’s Crackerjack followers don’t like the idea of you and I exercising our right of choice as to what goes on in relation to our in-world experience is because it ruins their immature sense of entitlement that they have the right to “police” the Grid and determine who is who and who can go where.

And this remains the core issue with this tool in particular – as zFire’s continued talk of circumventing the revised Community Standards most ably demonstrates – the ability of a minority to attempt to hold sway over the majority and consider themselves somehow above the ToS and CS.

However, there is an old truism about hanging and giving someone sufficient rope. Given the noises being made within LL as regards privacy – from the likes of Rod Humble and Mitch Kapor (who recently tweeted “The more I learn, the more I see how the whole biz side of social networking is built on surreptitiously stealing personal data” – I’m hoping that the truism applies in the case of Mr. Xue and his self-supposed immunity from the revised CS.

Addendum Feb 26th

It would seem that zFire Xue is determined to hang himself. With speculation continuing to run as to the future of RedZone and the potential for it to be banned from SL, he responds with pure (and exceptionally stupid) thug-like threats.

Note the highlighted portion. The thuggish attitude here is clear: he’s threatening to “out” the data he’s gathered; he’s trying to bully Linden Lab and he’s attempting to stifle legitimate concerns about his product (although this last point, to be fair, has always been his tactic and so comes under the “nothing new here” category).

Perhaps he actually realised he was giving away too much as to his intentions, as this reply was later re-edited into something far milder and with the threats removed – and can be seen on his forum in this latter format:

Sadly for xFire, however, the original reply – and his intentions – are now a matter of public record, thanks to Innula Zenovka, who captured the original in a screen shot prior to posting it over at SLU, – and to others who have since circulated it for broader consideration up to and including posting a copy on the JIRA related to this issue.

What was I saying earlier about the old hanging, rope, and man truism? zFire, meet rope.