Monday, September 18, 2006

"Real Fear in Virtual World". Following the security breach at Linden Labs (creators of the online game Second Life), where "the company's computers were hacked last week and access was potentially gained to the real-world names and addresses of as many as 650,000 Second Life denizens", some players are getting nervous:
Blackmail and extortion are also possibilities should a hacker threaten to expose some of Second Life's racier activities -- the virtual philandering of dissatisfied husbands or wives, say -- to real-world scrutiny.

"It's identity rape," said Lisa Stone, co-founder of Palo Alto's BlogHer, an organization for female bloggers, and a sporadic resident of Second Life. "If this happened, it would be a personal violation. It's completely unacceptable."

She said she's typically much more uninhibited in the virtual world of Second Life than she is in the real world. This is largely a factor of using a pseudonym when interacting with other Second Life members and having an invented digital image -- an avatar -- to hide behind.

..."There's a lot of sex in Second Life," said Rich Gibson, a Sebastopol computer programmer who has been dwelling in the virtual world, on and off, since February.

"The experience of having an avatar changes things," he said. "People do things that they might not do in the real world -- things they wouldn't want people in real life knowing about."
I understand the concern of the female player, but I find her "identity rape" metaphor a bit stretched...