November 3rd, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
A new resident-created Second Life service called “AgeLock” offers parcel owners the ability to require an affirmative statement of age before allowing access to adult content, potentially reducing civil and criminal liability for access by minors. Users who enter a parcel that has been secured with AgeLock are asked to confirm that they do not object to viewing adult material and confirm that viewing adult material by someone their age is legal in their jurisdiction. Users are also asked to provide their date of birth.
AgeLock is positioned as an “alternative to Integrity” in materials on the AgeLock web site. “Integrity” is the name of the identity verification system Linden Lab announced last summer, which is slowly being rolled out. AgeLock recently entered free, open, beta testing.
Virtually Blind interviewed one of AgeLock’s creators, ‘Allana Dion.’ ‘Dion’ explained how AgeLock works and addressed potential concerns regarding privacy and access.
Virtually Blind: In general terms, what is AgeLock?
‘Allana Dion:’ AgeLock is a scripted device connected to an off world (outside Second Life) database. It is set to either scan a sphere shaped area of as low as 2m or as high as 96m around the unit, or scan an entire plot of land by reading the property lines. Unlike the default scanner, this scanner will scan up to 100 people all at the same time.
As a new visitor arrives, the unit scans the avatar and checks that avatar name against the database. If the avatar name is already in the database, the unit will simply go back into standby mode and wait for the next visitor. If the avatar name is not in the database, the unit will address the avatar with a blue pop up window, warning the visitor that the area may contain adult content.
The warning states: Warning! You have entered an area which may contain sexually explicit material. If you are underage, find adult material offensive, or if it is illegal for you to view adult material in your community, you should leave the area. If you wish to remain and continue to have access to this area, please check ‘Enter.’
Basically the same warning that is used on adult websites all over the internet.
After the visitor has made it clear he/she wishes to stay, he/she will be asked to state for the record that he/she is 18 years of age or older, then state his/her real life date of birth for the record. This information, avatar name, date of birth given, are added to our database so that the individual will never again be asked to give this information when they revisit that plot of land or any other connected to the AgeLock system.
If any visitor indicates by the buttons they select on the pop up window that they either prefer not to view adult content or can not legally view adult content, the unit will thank them politely and leave them alone for 120 seconds (two minutes). If after two minutes the individual has not already teleported away on his/her own, the unit will teleport him/her to his/her home location with another polite message.
VB: Why did you create AgeLock?
AD: AgeLock started as a project for the Forum sim. The Forum is an adult community and we wanted something like this for ourselves, for the peace of mind of knowing that all of our visitors are aware they are entering an adult area. As we were developing it for ourselves, and people were commenting on it throughout it’s testing, we decided to improve our original design and offer it to the rest of the Second Life community.
Initially, during the discussion stage, we just weren’t comfortable with the Linden Lab plan of flagging our land adult and automatically banning anyone who wasn’t comfortable with giving Integrity real life information. I personally felt doing so would have an enormous impact on my own store and the other merchants in our shopping area. We also have many friends and members of our Forum group who had told us they would not be able to be “verified” through Integrity for various reasons. We knew we would have to block all those people if we went along with Linden Lab’s plan. This was the alternative we came up with for ourselves and for others who might feel the way we do.
The people who developed this are ‘Jamie David,’ ‘Allana Dion,’ ‘DXW Undertone,’ and ‘Property Resistance,’ all members of the Forum Community.
VB: Is it sort of the opposite of a banlist? Basically, a whitelist of people who have at least claimed they’re old enough to see adult content?
AD: Well, I don’t think I’d put it that way. This system will not add anyone to any ban lists, it doesn’t create any ban lines. It does not make lists of people who have refused to use it. In fact, given that the system allows visitors up to two whole minutes to move around without answering, it does nothing to prevent someone from going to the trouble of continuously ignoring it, before it teleports them home. It’s not really designed to keep anyone out. It’s only designed to give an appropriate warning to visitors and allows visitors to willingly input their information, basically an acknowledgment that they’ve received the warning and chosen to stay, so that they won’t have to deal with the warning the next time.
The important part is the clear warning. It is designed to be as friendly as possible. The reason it asks a visitor to declare their intent to stay and to give their age is simply to prevent people from being bombarded by this warning everywhere they go.
I suppose, in a way, you could say it is “a whitelist of people who have at least claimed they’re old enough to see adult content”, but that’s pretty much what Integrity’s identity verification is as well. This one just doesn’t require you to reveal your real life identity and doesn’t automatically block visitors who aren’t already on the list.
VB: People might still say it basically bans everyone who won’t give AgeLock their birth date, making it harder for people to move around. Does that concern you?
AD: Well it actually doesn’t ban anyone. It isn’t scripted to ban, only eject. So it gives every visitor the opportunity to choose to come back. It creates no ban lines and doesn’t block anyone. In fact, it gives two whole minutes in which a visitor can simply choose to ignore it, before it addresses them again. So someone could fly over the land, walk through it, whatever, and the most annoying thing that will happen to them is, if they are in the vicinity long enough to be scanned, they’ll see the blue pop up window. A blue pop up window you can easily click “ignore” is a lot less intrusive than all the security devices and ban lines that already exist all over SL.
A feature of this system that our scripter included is the ability for the unit to read property lines and not allow itself, even if set at the highest scanner range, to scan beyond those property lines. So a land holder who only has a 512 plot of land, could set this device right on the edge of his property line, leave it set to scan at it’s highest setting, and it still won’t be an annoyance to his neighbors. (This isn’t how we recommend you set it up, but it is a feature we included to keep this system as unobtrusive as possible.)
VB: Do you have any plans to use the data for marketing, or any other purpose, besides verifying people for access to adult sims?
AD: Absolutely not. The purpose of maintaining the database is only to ensure that residents will only need to be given the warning once and won’t need to worry about being hit with it everywhere they go over and over.
The database keeps the following information: Avatar name real life date of birth given the date they entered the system.
That’s it, no more. We do not keep track of where people visit, or what they do, or what their interests are. The units are not even scripted to record that information, they can’t. The fact that an avatar name is in our database does not indicate whether that person was visiting a XXX sex club or a store selling skins or just visiting a neighbor. What we keep in our database is completely useless in terms of any marketing.
As a side note, we’ve carefully avoided using the word “verify”, as we do not verify or check any information given.
VB: Does AgeLock operate across multiple sims?
AD: If someone owns land in multiple sims, they will need to place more than one unit, which is why all the units are copiable, so that a land holder can place as many as needed. The great thing is the database, so if you own land that crosses multiple sims and your visitor enters through one sim, they won’t be hit with the warning again when they cross over to the next sim, once they’re in the database. Currently the maximum scanner range is 96 m radius, or up to the limit of the property lines. We are hoping to provide a unit in the future that will cover an entire property or sim, up to a set height. But that of course, depends upon development
VB: What will you do if you are told that someone who has registered is underage? And are you worried about getting forced to mediate a lot of disputes?
I’m not too concerned with being asked to deal with too many disputes, but when people do contact us, my advice, in the case of those who believe they have a minor on their land, will be to contact Linden Lab. In the case of those who are already dealing with legal battles however, we will happily comply with court orders, while maintaining the privacy of other uninvolved parties
VB: I’m sure you saw the national press reports earlier this week about the Wonderland sim and ageplay. Do you see AgeLock being used to try to localize certain content that is legal in one jurisdiction, but not in another?
AD: I’ll be honest, that is a tough question. I’m not really sure how it could be at all useful to someone that way though. If you run a club where you are doing something you know is against the TOS or even illegal in most parts of the real world, will giving the warning we use to people before the enter protect you from liability? I’d say no it doesn’t. Illegal is illegal. Our warning doesn’t say, “there may be illegal content here”, it says there may be adult content. That is a big difference
In the case of Wonderland, I’ll say first, I have no idea if there is sexual ageplay occurring there, I’ve never seen the place, so I can’t judge. But if you are engaging in sexual ageplay, you’re already violating Linden Lab rules, so you get caught, you get banned. A scripted warning won’t help you in that situation. If you own a casino, you’re breaking Linden Lab rules, a warning can’t help you
It is a tough question, what is illegal and what isn’t? Is a prim marijuana plant illegal? It’s not really marijuana, you can’t smoke it, it won’t get you high. Images of bestiality are illegal in many places, and yet it’s not hard to find websites on the internet specializing in it. (my advice… don’t go look! Just take my word for it. :p ) But is it against Linden Lab rules? I actually don’t know. If it is, you’re outta luck. If it isn’t, then a warning is certainly appropriate at least and not having any warning is irresponsible to say the least
VB: How does AgeLock provide better protection for adult parcel owners than the age verification system Linden Lab is planning to implement?
AD: The protection is in the clear, unmistakable warning. There is no way a visitor could see that warning, click the buttons, continue on, and then later claim to have been surprised by the presence of adult content
The way Integrity is expected to be set up, is that residents will go through a link on their account page on the website, input real world name, date of birth, SS number, driver’s license, whatever, and then be labeled “verified”. Where in this process has the individual actually made the statement that they are aware of the presence of adult content and are willingly and knowingly viewing it?
The protection of the AgeLock system is that it happens in world, it can’t be mistaken for something else. It comes with a clear warning of content and a clear declaration of intent by the visitor. It’s purpose is basically to remove the “innocent victim” argument, the “I didn’t know” claim
The other important difference here is that this isn’t blocking thousands of visitors from your land. If you own a store in Second Life and you flag your land adult and only allow Integrity “verified” visitors, you are effectively cutting your customer base, by possibly as much as half, if not more. There are going to be many people who choose not become “verified” simply because they are not comfortable giving real life information to a company they have not personally chosen. There are going to be many people who choose not to become “verified” as a means of protest
And, as hard as it is for us blog junkies to believe, there are going to be many many people who have no idea any of this verification stuff is even happening. Jamie had a conversation with one just yesterday in which he had to point him to the blog and tell him to read. Even now, after all these months it’s been discussed, this guy didn’t know. The simple truth is, only a small percentage of people actually read the blogs. So imagine, someone who has no clue what is going on, tries to teleport to your store and can’t. You think he’s going to IM you and complain and allow you to explain and point him to the Integrity website? Nine times out of ten no, he’s going to not bother and move on to another store
With AgeLock, there are no misunderstandings. People are able to enter your land, they are given the information that is clear and easy to understand and they are allowed to make the decision right there in that moment. We’ve found that in most cases, curiosity alone will drive people to read the warnings and enter their birthdate, just to see what it’s all about
VB: Do you plan to charge for AgeLock?
AD: At this time, we are calling this the beta testing stage. So no, we are not charging any money for it. We are offering it completely free and asking people to keep in mind that it is a beta stage and now is the time to work out any little problems
Basically the idea is to get the system out there and get it used by as many people as possible, make sure it works, see if people are happy with it. We also hope that Linden Lab will acknowledge that the residents can and are coming up with alternatives of their own and respect our right to do so by not making adult land flagging and identity verification mandatory, but instead allow us to choose for ourselves the systems we prefer to use, whether people choose Integrity, AgeLock, or something else
Eventually, if the system turns out to be something the community wants and if things go as smoothly as we hope, the databases could become really huge. So at some point, if all of the above occurs, we do expect to need to charge the land holders who use the units a small fee to cover our expenses, the databases for instance and the scripters who have so kindly done all of this work for free on the promise that we’ll remember them. But our goal isn’t to make a living off of this, if we do end up charging at some point, it will be a very small amount and it would be the land holders using the system who pay for it, not the individual visitors just visiting the land
Again, another way our system is different from Integrity. Integrity plans to charge each individual Second Life resident for the right to go where they please. If and when we need to charge anyone, we will be charging the people who want the visitors to come to them. Makes more sense I think.
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