Thursday, 11 January 2007

Privacy issues with llSensor

I currently use llSensor in the Eduserv office in the Talis tower block on Cybrary City, the Eduserv MeetingPod and ArtsPlace SL to monitor how many avatars are visiting. I have done this up until now without giving visitors any indication that they are being logged in this way.

It struck me recently that this may not be acceptable from a privacy point of view (even though I suspect that this kind of tracking is commonplace throughout SL). Yes, I'm only tracking avatar names, but many people choose to make public the association between their avatar name and their real-life name, so in many cases I am effectively monitoring usage by identified individuals.

Obviously, I treat any information gathered in this way as being private. It is not disclosed anywhere. I do it primarily to monitor usage, but it is sometimes also useful to be able to follow up with people who have visited when I wasn't there.

Given my concerns, I could either:
  • stop doing it! :-)
  • add a CCTV (or similar) sign to the area in which I'm tracking usage
  • switch to using some anonymised form of identifier (rather than name), e.g. an MD5 hash of the avatar name
  • switch to an explicit tracking method (e.g. a visitor book of some kind)
I raised this issue on the AllianceSecondLife Google group and as a result of the responses have decided to experiment with a small 3-D padlock icon containing a notecard with a short privacy statement. This is what the result looks like.

This makes it reasonably clear to visitors what I'm doing and allows them either to complain or not return (or both!) if they so choose.

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