Friday, 25 February 2011

Son of Redzone: How to Protect Your Privacy, Why You Still NEED to Protect It, and Why the Landed Gentry Are So Annoyed at You.

Developments on the Redzone front are moving very quickly. Recent changes to the Linden Lab's Community Standards Document, and resulting changes to the scripting and interface of Redzone itself, have somewhat reduced the threat to privacy that Redzone poses. These changes now require that anyone who wishes to access the names of your supposed "alts" (i.e., anyone who has been scanned into the RZ database using the same IP as you, whether they are in fact "alts" or not) must now obtain your consent before doing so. If someone seeks that consent from you, you will receive a drop-down menu that provides three options: "Yes, consent," "Stop Asking," and "No, decline."

IMPORTANT: Make sure that you click "No, decline." Aside from the fact that no one has the right to know who your "alts" are, it is still unclear what other ramifications may result from clicking "Yes." At the very least, you may be exposing the alts of other people without their consent. Do NOT choose "Stop Asking," as it is worthwhile knowing who is trying to obtain your information from you.

In general, this is a good development. At the same time, it is important to understand that

  • Your consent is NOT required by RZ to scan and enter your avatar name, IP, and other information into the off-world RZ database. This will happen if you have media and music enabled regardless of your wishes.

  • That database is outside of the jurisdiction of Linden Lab. Neither LL, nor its residents, have any control over who accesses it, or for what purpose.

  • If you are banned from a parcel, all of the "alts" associated with your IP will be banned simultaneously, in effect creating a list of your supposed "alts" without your permission.

  • If someone else who has been scanned using the same IP as you consents to listing the names of her or his alts, YOUR avatar(s) will also be exposed in that list, WITHOUT your express consent.

For these reasons, it is important to continue to employ defensive measures against Redzone. The Phoenix viewer development team (and other TPVs) is promising to include patches in their next releases that will allow you to block Redzone scans, but for the moment the ONLY way of effectively blocking a scan of your avatar is to disable streaming media and music in your viewer preferences. You must also disable "cookies" in the "Web" tab of your preferences. To see a graphic of this, follow this link to a post on the SL Forums:

You may also wish to consider purchasing the free HUD "Greenzone," which detects scans from Redzone devices so long as you wear it. It will NOT protect you against a scan, but it does tell you WHO is doing it. Please note, however, that the code for Greenzone is invisible and no mod, which means in effect that we cannot know for certain what ELSE it may be doing; I therefore hesitate to fully recommend this product.

On a different level I encourage all members of the SLLU to contribute to the fight against Redzone's lucrative and deceitful data scraping and privacy-invading operation by:

  • Refusing to consent to revealing alts, and resisting scans as noted above.

  • Adding yourself to the "watch" list of this JIRA, which is opposed to Redzone.

  • Boycotting known stores, vendors, clubs, or other parcels that use Redzone, and informing their proprietors that you are doing so, and why.

  • Tweeting your opposition to this device's data mining and privacy invasion at @rodvik and @secondlife.

For those who wish more information on this subject, I can recommend two sources that are continually being updated:

Please note that the last listed is very, very lengthy.

Why the Landed Gentry Are Upset at the Uppity Commons

One of the more interesting tropes appearing and reappearing in the Redzone official forums is one that emphasizes the "fact" (unproven though it is) that the conflict over this device is between sim owners on one hand, and the "freebie accounts" (i.e., "griefers" and "copybotters") on the other. The language is nakedly that of moneyed privilege; were there any question about which side of the ideological divide the Redzone users position themselves, a few of these quotes from the RZ forums should dispell it:

From zFire himself:

"This all could be temporary anyway. If 20000+ Tier paying residents united
against 700 GZers, I would expect yet another change.

How many Millions of US Dollars do 20,000+ users pay LL per month? What if a Union of the users threatened to strike?"

From his followers:

"Due to the new Linden Labs ToS that effectively neuters the ANIT-griefing tool REDZONE, I am in need of an UNLIMITED BAN list, as 500 is far too few due to all the grifers, thieves and copybots that hit this sim. Please remove the 500 user limit in my ban lists ASAP. Better yet, escalate this ticket up to whomever made the decision to side with griefers instead of Tier-paying and TOS abiding users."
"zFire did make a good point that we the sim owners should may form some kind of union to protect im thinking of making a group that represents the wishes of us the tier paying sim owners. Its about time Linden Labs looks after our rights instad of the free users."
"I agree. Its a proprietory network. Linden Labs own the lot, but while sims are leased from them they could at least have the foresight to see that the only things that make money for them are Land, security, shops and the value of the L$ against the $USD.
the rest may make a bit of money but nothing like those things
"I also do not feel Linden Labs has a right to tell us we can not have this, as we are paying around $320.oo USD a month for our sim, plus the cost of running and maintaining it, for people in SL to enjoy. . . . Every one has a opinion, this is just mine, but one thing for sure, is this is against my right as a sim owner and any sim owner, I will seriously consider looking into another game where they take care of the ones that keep them in business, and not cater to the ones that want everything for free and maliciously hide behind alts to cause problems."

Apparently, if you pay for a sim, you should be entitled to violate the privacy of, well, everyone who doesn't.

Damn, whose idea was it to free the serfs anyway????

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Inara Pey said...

zFire stoops lower: when asked about RZ potentially being banned, he responded (via his forum) thus:

If RedZone is banned, I will be forced to privatize the RedZone service with a service that operates outside of SecondLife, and therefore unrestricted by the above secondlife policy. without the secondlife policy alt information will be shared with everyone. LSL scripts would be provided free of charge for people to copy and paste into their own prims, and RedZone devices would continue to remain in SecondLife. Such a website would accept paypal instead of linden dollars for membership. I don't want to do that, nor do you. I prefer to operate with Linden Labs not against them. I like Linden Labs, they are my friends and I try to improve Secondlife by improving security.

Leaving aside the sheer hubris contained in the statement "I try to improve security", the underlying threat contained in these words cannot be mistaken - nor can his primary driver in this matter: greed.

If anyone were in any doubts concerning this individual's megalomania, the then above quote (which can be seen here, given he's since tried to cover his tracks with a re-edit of his original post) should be all the proof they need.

Meanwhile, a JIRA has been started that could put a stop to all such activities like this once and for all. It's worth going to vote on / watching.

Scylla Rhiadra said...

Thanks Inara! The deleted comment, and the barely disguised threat, does indeed expose both zFire's intent, and his motivations.

A screen shot of zFire's comment before he edited this part out can be seen at:

no2redzone also notes there that zFire has been playing with the idea of auto consent: if one doesn't explicit withhold consent to a request to reveal alts within 60 seconds, one will have been "deemed" to have consented.

The JIRA you refer to is by Ann Otoole, and calls for an opt-out system for IP tracking (i.e., data mining).

I strongly urge anyone who has not registered their support for this, or the main JIRA opposed to Redzone, to do so now! Make sure that you both "Vote" and "Watch" the JIRAs, as LL has indicated that they will be paying more attention to the number of people "watching" an issue than the number voting on it.

JIRA SVC-6793 - Establish a do not track opt out system

JIRA VWR-24746 - RedZone Security violates TOS, exposes private information and is being misused

Inara Pey said...

Blogspot ate my HTML...there were links to Ann's JIRA and the screenshot of zFire's comments...

/me growls.

Scylla Rhiadra said...


Actually, for some reason preferences on this blog have been set to not show links as underlined. I should maybe do something about that ...

In any case, your contribution is much appreciated!!