Privacy Statement in a Virtual Land

Path of Support Bird\'s Eye View

As you wander a lonely virtual landscape, is anyone watching you?  Probably, if the land collect stats.  Should you be told?

As some may know, I maintain the Path of Support on Healthinfo Island in Second Life.* It features almost 100 posters of different support groups. The path includes groups  dealing with mental health conditions, chronic issues, and terminal illnesses.

I am acutely aware that some people, as well as avatars, do not want to be publicly associated with some of these ailments.  This may even be the reason why some join Second Life.  A person can be relatively anonymous behind their avatar.

However, some people’s SL lives are unique enough that close friends or associates may be able to figure out who the real life person is ‘behind’ the avatar.  Further, people may want the avatar itself to have some privacy.  I know some people who do not want to list certain groups their avatar belongs to because others’ may see it in their profile and think less of the avatar (as well as the person.)

It was with this in mind that I designed certain aspects of the Path of Support.  For example, I have a list of the groups in the notecard at the beginning, so that avatars need not be seen near group posters they are not comfortable being by.

To properly understand the utilization of Path of Support, I collect statistics on visitors.  There are a number of outfits and objects/scripts that will do so, and some report the name of the avatar including in real time (ttSLVC, 1902 Essential.)  However, given the nature of the material on the path, I decided to not collect avatar names. I do record that a visitor came by, that they took a note card, and in the case of some posters I am making, where the poster is located.

I now include a privacy statement about my reporting on the notecard at the entrances to the Path of Support.  I wonder if, like websites, more areas will also begin to post similar statements.  Can the HON code be far behind?

*If you have a Second Life client, you can visit the path here.

About John

Interested in how information intersects daily life, technology, and art. Collaboration specialist, working in social and collaborative media. Biomedical Informaticist, focusing on patient/patient, patient/provider communication.
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3 Responses to Privacy Statement in a Virtual Land

  1. Stacy says:

    There has been some discussion about HONCode recently on Twitter. People were debating whether it is helpful or not. I have had the HONCode in place on several of my websites over the years, and from a business perspective, I don’t think it really brings any value, and compliance is time consuming. Some say that it may build trust in your site/organization, but I’m not even sure about that. When people ask me whether it’s worth applying, I usually say that if you are already in compliance, maybe… but if you have to make a ton of changes – probably not. However, I will say that many of the guidelines are things that health sites should be looking at anyway. We all need to have a statement about advertising and privacy.
    Lately, for blogs, I’ve been recommending the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics, which is quite popular.

  2. John says:

    Good advice.

    I do like to see the HONCode on a site, but I wouldn’t assume they are actually in compliance.

    I hadn’t thought much about using these sorts of things in a virtual world setting until I looked into visitor logging utilities. Now I am certain that things like web privacy policies, ethics statements and the like do have a place in virtual worlds.

    Unfortunately, we are still sorting these things out on the web.

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