Update, July 2012: This article is now out-of-date following a further change to the Age Verification process. See this post for details.
While I don’t wish to blow my own horn, I’m not actually surprised that there has been a change; this is actually something Rodvik took the time to Private Message me about via Twitter earlier in June in order to obtain some perspective on changing the system (presumably because I’m involved in the Adult Community within SL) – and I’ve little doubt he PM’d others as well to get some feedback. While he didn’t specify how the system was to be changed, it was clear from the exchange that something would be changing.
The problem with the old verification process – really – was that it was completely misrepresented through rumour, ignorance and assumption. It was also somewhat invasive (although to be honest, I had little issue with Aristotle Integrity and providing my passport details because I made myself go read-up on the system itself and understand what it was actually about).
Among the wild (and incorrect) claims made at the time the system was introduced were the following:
- It was used to track US citizen’s voting habits / to target US citizen for political mailshots, etc. (a rumour generated because the software came from the same company that provides political trending software to the major US political parties)
- The software was “against European law” (and yet 12 out of the twenty top users of the software were European Union countries, including Germany, France and the UK – three countries where the “against European law” cries were the loudest)
- That the software stored personal information on-file and made it available to third parties for a fee (yet the software does no such thing: it operates on a look-up basis with nationally-held databases and simply acts a a “tick box” confirmation service)
- That the software supplied personal information to Linden Lab (in fact the only information passed to Linden Lab was either a tick to say a person had been successfully Age Verified or a cross to say they hadn’t).
If genuine fault were to be placed with Aristotle Integrity, it was in the fact that it could easily be fooled. The system appeared to compare supplied data with a variety of databases with no actual cross-referencing. This resulted in people being able to fool the system by giving (for example) a valid Social Security number against the name Elvis Presley and end up being verified. In the UK and Europe people were able to give “old” data relating to themselves (such as a former home address and expired passport number) and get verified. Some even claimed to be able to give completely fictitious information together with a real name (say, Donald Duck) and get verified. There was also a problem for some in that even when genuine information was given, verification would fail, or the Age Verified flag would have to be periodically re-set (I myself have had to re-verify twice since my original verification after suddenly finding myself blocked once again from land with the Age Verified flag set (rather than the PIOF flag)).
Part of the fault here was clearly with the Artistotle Integrity software, although equally, much of the blame lay with the various government databases being checked, simply because they are not cross-referenced (and we probably all breathe easier as they are not).
However, all this aside, the fact that the system required the submission of passport numbers, Social Security numbers, etc., whether or not they were stored somewhere was extremely off-putting to many – and it was this evasiveness that gave Rodvik cause to PM on the subject, and indicate privately that he felt the matter needed addressing.
The result is a completely new system that simply requires you supply a date of birth and confirm the information supplied is true.
Doubtless the new system is going to get people up in arms once it becomes widely known, and some people are going to rail against the whole thing being a “joke” and so on simply because the system is now so “easy”. Others will doubtless cry “foul” because of the information (SSN, driver’s license, etc) they have “given” to LL in the past (even though, as stated, no information supplied is actually retained by Aristotle Integrity or LL).
However, the fault here is not LL’s: they are simply conforming to the requirements set forth by the US Federal Trade Commission’s best-practices for age-verified access to adult content on-line. It may not be the best method in the world (but can anyone point to a system that does work without falling flat on its face at the first presentation of false data that doesn’t require invasive “background checks”?). It is however what the US government considers adequate in lieu of anything better.
If nothing else, it should put an end to the more ludicrous claims made around Aristotle Integrity and take away the very genuine headaches some people did have when trying to verify using it.
We’ve yet to see any formal announcement about the new system – the news has been “leaked” via SLU, where it appears some were given a heads-up that the new system was now available for testing and opted the break the news themselves on Friday. Whether they received word from LL or perhaps from Rodvik having also been a part of the batting of ideas I had been loosely involved in via Twitter, is unclear. Given that so much of late seems to be coming to light as a result of word-of-mouth rather than any official announcement, it would be nice to see something show up on the official blog about this come Monday.