Age Verification in Second Life

Got an interesting letter from the Lindens this morning. Hmm… is this the first step in a move toward a unified Teen+Adult Grid? Let’s hope so.

Hello, [My Account Name].

As you may have heard, we’re implementing the first stage of an Identity Verification system beginning with age. Our ultimate goal is to give Second Life Residents the opportunity to reveal as much or as little real life information about themselves as they like, and to have that information verified. We see this tool as critical to supporting Residents in shedding anonymity and building trust-based relationships — but only to the extent that they’re comfortable.

We’ve engaged the services of a third party provider, Aristotle’s Integrity, who will match information that Residents provide with information available in public records. You will be asked to provide your name, geographic location, birthdate, and an ID that is specific to your country, for example the last four digits of your social security number if you’re American. We will not be storing any information except for a code that tells us there was a positive match. Integrity will not keep any identifying information about you.

Age verification will initially be used as a way to limit access to restricted content within Second Life. Therefore, in order to enter any parcel or region which has been flagged as containing restricted content, i.e. sexual activity or extreme violence, age verification will be required to ensure only adults, or people over the age of 18, gain access. Verifying age will be voluntary, except in this context.

Prior to launching age verification throughout Second Life, we’re hoping you, the concierge customers, will help us out by trying the process and letting us know about your experience — if you were able to accurately verify your age, if the process itself is clear and understandable, and what problems you encountered. Please visit the Age Verification link available from the Your Account section of our website in the right sidebar and enter the requested information. This link is currently only available to concierge customers. When you are finished, you will be asked to take a short survey to fill us in on your experience.

For more information on Age Verification in Second Life, please visit the Second Life Blog.

Thank you very much for your help, and your continued support.

Linden Lab
Creators of Second Life

(Read LL’s blog post re: age verification.)

Katrina Adams
Howdy folks! I’m an Instructional Designer at UT Dallas. I have a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Angelo State University and a Master’s in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems from the University of North Texas. I’ve been working in edtech for 11 years. Hmm… what else? I’m a *huge* fan of that little Irish band called U2, and I’m a bigtime Firefly/Serenity advocate.

4 thoughts on “Age Verification in Second Life

  1. Matt Crosslin

    ‘Chewie, I’ve got a bad feeling about this…’

    I’m glad to see that they could be moving towards a unification thing, but I see a problem here. We all know that people will misuse and get around any age verification system there is out there. The problem I see is that people will start blaming Linden Labs for what these people do, instead of going after the problem people themselves. Just more (pointless) legal hassles for SL.

    Not that I think they should stop this idea just because of that, but I just wanted to point that out.

    A question I would have – what to do about streaker avatars in future all age areas? Do they get booted out until they put some clothes on? I like the idea of having a big chicken suit appear on them until they put clothes on :)

  2. Katrina Adams

    Erin and I were talking yesterday, and this has got several problems. Just a couple:

    1. People who want to access content that’s flagged as mature using this new system are going to have to expose themselves by verifying their age. In order to verify your age, you have to provide some type of proof of ID. In this time of constant security breaches, lots of folks are going to be very wary of this.

    2. You’ll notice way toward the bottom of that blog announcement the Lindens posted that this age verification process is *currently* free. Eventually, there will be a charge for premium account holders, and a higher charge for the basic account holders. All to access content that is currently freely accessible.

    3. The Lindens seem to think that land owners are going to voluntarily flag their own areas as mature. Let’s just help them take off their rose-tinted glasses and explain to them that as soon as landowners’ customers realize they run the risk of exposure and later when they have to pay a fee to get verified, land owners are quickly going to realize that they don’t want to flag their own content as mature.

    I’m only speculating that SL is moving toward a unified grid. It is interesting, however, that they’re making this push to ensure that people are 18+. There must be a better way, though, in moving toward unification. Erin mentioned maybe instead making a mature grid, and all teen and PG sims are accessible. This, though, seems to have problems of its own.

    Anyway, it’s a whole new world, and someone’s got to figure it out. I just hope they do before people start leaving SL. With this and the recent outlawing of gambling in-world, things seem to be getting pretty shaken up.

  3. Matt Crosslin

    Yeah – it will be hard to get this going. Maybe they should keep the teen grid the way it is (so that it will be like public schools – only open to children and those approved to work there), and open the main grid to teens.

    Of course, if land owners don’t voluntarily tag their land, that would lead to the Lindens policing land owners, which is another problem in itself.

    I wonder – most adult sites get away with being in existence by having a voluntary ‘I verify that I am over 18’ link just to get in. I wonder why the same standard wouldn’t be sufficient for adult places in SL?

  4. Erin Jennings

    I wonder – most adult sites get away with being in existence by having a voluntary ‘I verify that I am over 18’ link just to get in. I wonder why the same standard wouldn’t be sufficient for adult places in SL?

    This point has been raised on the Linden blog, as well. The Terms of Service clearly state that only residents 18 or older are allowed to access the main grid, and that anyone else is in violation: Users under the age of 18 are prohibited from accessing the Service other than in the area designated by Linden Lab for use by users from 13 through 17 years of age (the ‘Teen Area’). Since every user has to agree to the ToS before signing up, legally (I think), Linden Lab can’t be held responsible for any violations that occur. But if they aren’t adding age verification for legal reasons, why are they doing it? That is one of the reasons that I agree with Katrina that Linden might be considering some kind of unification.

    Katrina mentioned the possibility of a mature-only grid. While it would be logistically difficult, I think that if it is possible, it would be a good solution. The easiest way might be to convert the current ‘main’ grid to a mature grid, and allow PG sims to volunteer to move to a PG grid. It would be difficult for PG sims that share land with mature ones; they would not be able to simply move their island to the PG grid. Perhaps discounted land could be made available, temporarily, on the PG grid, to accommodate these sims. Once the transition is complete, the mature grid could have similar restrictions to the teen grid: no avatars can enter the PG grid, and no objects can be imported or exported between the two. That would cause problems for avatars that do business with both markets, since they would have to choose one or the other. I don’t know what would stop them from bringing over mature objects with their PG ones during the transition, or indeed building new ones once they got there. But the teen grid must already have a system in place for dealing with things like that; they have access to the same building and scripting tools that main grid residents do.

    There are a lot of things to consider, but a unified grid would be great for education in Second Life.The other option, of course, would be an entirely different virtual world that would be set up, from the beginning, just for educational purposes. One doesn’t exist yet, as far as I know, but I’m sure someone is working on it. It would be a shame to have to give up our Second Life space, but we have learned a lot about virtual worlds there — it wouldn’t be a total waste.

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