Earlier this month, I devoted a blog post to an ongoing controversy surrounding a "citizen watch group" in Second Life called Justice League Unlimited.
It seems that this group of SL residents has for some time been dressing up as superheroes and patrolling the grid to intercede in incidents of griefing, usually occurring in public sandboxes and welcome areas like Ahern.
The crux of the current controversy is the "wiki" belonging the JLU that was leaked a few weeks ago, which allegedly contains real life information on SL residents the JLU has deemed "griefers" or sympathetic to griefers.
I've said before I don't condone griefing -- but I also don't condone the collection of information on residents by a resident group who has set themselves up to be a kind of law enforcement entity, one that has not been vetted by Linden Lab to do so.
Indeed, the TOS states that third parties may collect information on SL residents. I don't have a problem with merchants keeping track of what I buy in their shops, or how often I visit a social gathering place. I've become accustomed to that in real life -- so why would SL be any different?
I also don't object to residents keeping their own notes on their interactions with other residents, particularly when that interaction becomes intimidating or threatening -- keeping track of dates and times of confrontations, which might show an emerging pattern or history of behavior, is an important support mechanism to use in tandem with the "AR" (Abuse Report) tool that Linden Lab provides to help residents protect themselves.
But I continue to be troubled by the emergence of the JLU as a self styled law enforcement group. Not only have they not been vetted by Linden Lab to conduct this kind of policing -- there's no evidence they've been officially trained in criminal justice issues or law enforcement.
I have never had the pleasure of meeting any members of the JLU, as I'm not a prankster, or a serial griefer. I probably never would have had any interaction with them otherwise, until I made the mistake of opening my mouth and publicly questioning the legitimacy of their group.
I also probably would have never had any interaction with a blogger named Prokovy Neva, who has apparently suffered greatly at the hands of griefers, and in his neverending crusade against them and their "technocommunist" sympathizers, has decided that I am a "fellow traveler" -- a term previously used in the 20th century to describe people who sympathized with the Communist Party.
Astolat Dufaux is another oversharer -- she tells you sadly that she has breast cancer and is getting chemo and that she used to work for a big British newspaper. She's another exemplary of the British left hating on Americans and the justice they wish to bring to the world against criminals that this selfsame British left would do better to loathe themselves because in fact they constitute a greater threat to that British left's freedoms than the overweening abuses of power of a vigilante group.
Astolat runs a Victorian store that I hope brings her income and relief from pain. Astolat may truly not "get it" because she's never seen a person traumatized by rape in cyberspace, which is really a soul-killing and awful thing whatever its remove from real-life physical trauma, nor has she seen sims groan and fall over under the load of tub girls and goatses, with her tenants moving out and costing her real money. This is all abstract to her.
There's more in a followup post, after I chided him for not doing his homework and proclaiming I was British -- I guess because I hang out in Victorian sims and sell Victorian clothing...
He was pretty easy on me compared to some of the other residents he seems to have longstanding antipathy for, who have also spoken out about the JLU -- though his most hurtful comments (viewable in other forums) have been critical of my personal decision to speak publicly about my experience with breast cancer treatment and recovery in the last year and half. All I have to say to that is "WTF"?
But back to the JLU.
I'll say it again: the JLU is not a company that provides a service, like Linden Lab or Google -- as users we agree to the TOS of SL or Gmail before we can use it. We understand that they collect information, because they specifically mention that in their TOS.
And while the JLU may be considered a "third party" under the TOS, they are not a technology corporation providing a service, or law enforcement, or private detectives, or journalists, or prospective employers, or even retail merchants. They are simply a user group within a service, who agreed to the same TOS the rest of us did when we registered.
Regardless of what your activities may be on the grid, the JLU simply has no business to be collecting data on residents. The files they are keeping on individual SL residents is nothing more than cyberstalking: "threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications." Their actions are really no more different than those of the griefers they have pledged to "protect" us all from.
However this controversy plays out, it comes down to this: What the JLU is doing may or may not be illegal, or unethical, but damn -- it is just plain creepy... and, for merchants, landowners and Linden Lab itself, it is just plain bad for business.