I've been pondering the potential implications of the web-based profiles (for yours, go to my.secondlife.com/insertfirstname.insertsecondname) now included in 2.5 . The external view doesn't show as much info as it did initially. That information (e.g., groups, partners) caused a lot of consternation - it meant anybody who knew your avatar's name could now find out if you belonged to the Masters Who Get Off On Bullying Helpless Kajiras group, something you might not want your boss to know.
If you are logged inworld you see the full profile on the web which makes sense. What is more problematic is that you have the facility to share the profile on Twitter, Facebook and according to a tweet I saw today, Flickr.
Second Life has a Facebook presence - which is a little wierd. I mean according to the FB TofS Second Life avatars can't have an account using their inworld identity - you have to use your "real" name. So what's the point of sharing an avatar's profile - unless the intent is to link the virtual and the "real"? And what prevents somebody other than yourself doing that?
There is lots of potential for scaremongering here. Unfortunately, until there is more information everything we might say is just speculation.
I do worry about my privacy. I do worry about information about "me" being available without my express permission. I have a set of boundaries and expect that Linden Lab will respect them. If they don't then I have the option of leaving.
I interrupt this blog post for a mini rant:
For the record, my concerns are not because "people in their 50's don't understand technology" which is a phrase I've encountered more and more frequently of late. One unlamented ex-Linden used it to explain the resistance to V2 which only convinced me (using V2 at the time) that he had a big mouth but very little working brain. People my age have seen more internet technology come and go than those who consider Facebook their natural habitat. I think the difference between generations might be that we apply some level of critical thinking to new applications. But of course I could be wrong. :)
I read a study earlier which referenced findings that people who reveal all their secrets in social networking locations, such as FB, are convinced that only their friends will read it. An additional finding was that 42% of students who use FB think it is an invasion of their privacy for potential employers to look at their information and 64% said employers should not consider Facebook profiles during the hiring process.
Let me just suggest that if you're going to walk naked down the street you should not be surprised if the world stares and it's foolish to accuse people who gawk at you of invading your privacy.
end of rant
The point of this blog post is that I don't know what the Lab's intentions are. I've seen no clear articulated strategy for the relationship between Second Life and the rest of the internet - social networking in particular. It is almost impossible to reverse-engineer a strategy from tactical decisions. However, in the absence of a communicated strategy there will be endless opportunity for speculation and "the sky is falling" pronouncements from all of us.
As anxious as I am to know what's going on, I suggest we attempt to be patient and hope for clarity. In the meantime, consider this a poke at Linden Lab requesting some kind of coherent statement and if no clear strategy exists - then please, stop the tactical implementations until you know the direction they're supposed to support.