Intruder alert!

Hi. Is that technical support? I have a problem with my monitor. Yes, it’s working just fine, but there is a bit of an issue with it. Well, there’s a smudge on the screen. No, it’s clean – no fingerprints, marks or anything else like that – the smudge is behind the front of the screen, not on the surface. It’s small and grey, like a shadow; barely noticeable really, until you know its there.

Dead pixels? Yes, I’m well aware that even the best monitors have a couple, but I know this definitely isn’t a dead pixel. How do I know for sure? Because it moves around the screen! It certainly isn’t impossible – I’m watching it right now! No… I haven’t been drinking! Yes, as I said before, it’s definitely behind the glass… Oh, and it’s got a definite shape to it. Well, if anything, I’d say its shaped like a tiny fruit fly!

Yes folks – not that I’d ever go to the lengths of contacting tech support over such a thing – my monitor has, quite bizarrely and unexpectedly, acquired a resident fly, sandwiched between the front glass and whatever you call the surface that lurks behind it. It’s no big deal at the moment, provided it doesn’t decide to die there leaving its little fruit fly carcass forever sat in the middle of my screen; or worse, he’s just the advance scout for a marauding infestation of the things hell bent on world domination of my monitor! It’s not a scenario that I ever thought I’d have to contemplate, which just goes to show that no matter how secure something is made, someone, or something will always manage to break in. As Dr Malcom would say, “life, uh, finds a way”.

Security is big business and never more so than today – its hard to believe that there was ever a time before data security was foremost in our minds and when people didn’t particularly worry about being hacked, compromised or held ransom by unscrupulous online racketeers, but those days are long gone. The same is true of our physical world – my parents can recall a time when people would leave their front doors open without fear of intruders… All  sadly, in the past now.

It’s no wonder that we can often be at pains to protect our inworld lives from intrusion too, but I do wonder sometimes, if some of the efforts that we make are somewhat redundant in the context of what we accept SL to be. There are  of course, a number of commonsense measures that we should take to protect ourselves from unwanted and malicious attempts to get inside our private lives by way of the virtual world. It’s only wise to separate real and virtual identities, that stands to reason, as does being careful about what we share with others about our real lives, but as for the virtual aspects of who we are, just how important – and practical – is it for us to secure our virtual assets against intrusion?

In practical terms, I think there are two elements to this: Privacy and security. Security, I would say is mostly covered by what I’ve already mentioned, whilst privacy can be a difficult thing to achieve in SL, particularly since so many of the measures we can take inworld to protect our privacy are easily subverted. You can hide your presence from friends – I have an aquaintance who frequently logs into SL in stealth mode, and then starts a conversation without making themself known… I’m not sure why they do it, aside from wanting privacy on their terms, but it can be very annoying, and I think it’s quite rude, so I have no reservation about ignoring them when I choose to. We can also create private areas up in the sky or underground, but even blocking those outside from looking in is a bit pointless, since the radar gives away your presence and the ‘hide’ setting isn’t entirely foolproof. Similarly, ban lines and security systems can be fairly easily beaten, and when all a passer-by has to do is cam over, they’re not terribly effective anyway.

However, I have to wonder what the point of inworld privacy is anyway. Since the security aspect of our goods and chattels is taken care of by the permissions system and land tools, it’s an easy matter to stop people walking off with our stuff, or fly-tipping in our back yard; the real issue though is personal privacy.

Most of us don’t particularly want any Thomas, Richard or Harold wandering in on us when we’re getting changed, neither do we relish the thought of strangers (or even friends), testing out our poseballs and furniture whilst we’re not around, and there are times when we’d just like a bit of peace and quiet, which can be difficult if there’s a busload of tourists poking around our personal space. Then again, SL is – in many ways – a social network, and I suppose we have to occasionally put up with the inconvenience that it can bring, which is not to say that we all shouldn’t subscribe to at least the bare minimum of polite behaviours. Personally, I’ve not above having a nose at things that lie behind closed doors, but decorum and respect for the privacy of others will always come first.

I just have to hope that other people would treat me the same too… Although, there’s always mute, eject, ban, derender and report – which, at the end of the day, really does give those who want privacy the last word!

s. x

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy.
Woh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
Tell me is it just a dream?
Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me

This entry was posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Techietalk. Bookmark the permalink.

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