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5.2.4 Privacy Issues

Privacy on MUCKs is a charged issue, and making good decisions about how to handle privacy issues requires making mature judgments in the face of seemingly contradictory considerations.

On the one hand, there is no guarentee of privacy in an online environment. On the other hand, there is no excuse for administrators who abuse their position to pry into the online lives of players on their worlds.

On the one hand, the subjective experience of VR as a `safe' environment often leads people to let down their emotional guard... to reveal intimate or painful details of their lives to others online. Administrators should take every precaution against violating the implied trusts that lead these players to make such revelations. On the other hand, people have organized illegal activities online, and the administrators of worlds where this has taken place have been embroiled in legal issues as a result. Administrators owe it to themselves and to other players on the MUCK to take reasonable precautions against such cases.

Doing a good job with privacy issues is primarily a matter of following an important list of DON'Ts:

  • DON'T read log files unless you have a specific, valid reason for doing to. Filter the output so you only read what you need to read.

  • DON'T set yourself Dark and move about the MUCK to populated areas, eavesdropping on conversations.

  • DON'T use Darked puppets to eavesdrop on rooms that you would otherwise not be able to hear.

  • DON'T @teleport into private rooms without warning.

  • DON'T @teleport online players without warning them.

  • DON'T examine players' properties unless you have a specific, valid reason for doing so.

Religiously abiding by these "don'ts" in conjunction with keeping a log of commands issued by players is a reasonable compromise. Be aware that if you do log commands, and players on your world are investigated for illegal online activities (which includes using online worlds to organize illegal RL activities), your command logs may be subpoenaed. It is not absolutely necessary for your AUP to state that you log commands, but you will be on firmer ground if you do so: players will not be able to claim that they did not know that commands were logged, and would have acted differently if they had known.

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