Protect Kids or Protect Identities?
Here's the dilemma: In a virtual world, where a 14-year-old can pretend to be 40 or, worse yet, a 40-year-old can pretend to be 14, how do you protect the innocent? That's an issue that could be facing Second Life, the popular adults-only virtual world that has a growing number of areas marked as "mature," or having adult content.
Just as they're not allowed to drink, smoke or view pornography, minors aren't allowed to join Second Life. But, we can probably assume that a few have gotten around the registration process, which simply requires the user to promise that he or she is over age 18. Now, Second Life is testing a second layer of protection, which requires its "residents" who want to enter an adult area to prove their age.
Second Life parent company Linden Lab says it will work with a third-party company to conduct the age verification process. SL residents will give up name, date of birth, and address. Second Life residents in the U.S. will be asked for the last four digits of their social security numbers while non U.S. folks may need to provide a passport or national ID number, according to the Second Life blog.
As Mitch Wagner at Information Week points out in a blog entry this week, this is exactly the type of information that identity thieves love. And even though SL says the data will only be used at the time of age verification and won't be stored... well, it's hard to look past the number of laptops with personal information that have been stolen from people that should be trusted - such as government agencies.
Second Life notes that only those who want to enter "mature" areas will have to go through the age verification process.
May 7, 2007; 6:40 PM ET
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