Fear and Loathing in the Redzone

The current hot topic across Second Life forums is ZF Redzone, the device aimed at preventing griefers, copybotters and alts from causing mayhem and getting their hands on your wares. The aim at first glance is noble, the execution is far from it.

There are signs that all is not well with this system from its description, where it claims to eject and TP home intruders, often crashing them. That right there sets red flags. Another red flag manifests itself in the shape and form of the creator advising in the comments of the reviews that it’s a good idea to ban your competitors from your land because they will spy on your or send alts to do so….alarm bell city, this is getting into the realms of paranoia as a marketing point.

However, there are features of this system that would be useful, the fact that it can ban more people than the inworld tools being one, being able to manage access controls from a website being another.

I’ve spoken to people who have been copybotted, I’ve listened to a content creator in tears as she finds once again that her items have been ripped and she wonders whether it’s worth continuing because all her hard work is going to waste whilst the thieves seem to prosper. The issue of the size of the ban list inworld was an issue she raised me with quite a while ago.

The frustrations merchants are faced with regarding content theft are the reason there’s a market for products like Redzone. The problem is that this system itself goes above and beyond what it should aim to do and links suspected alts to accounts that are deemed to be malicious. These accounts are deemed to be malicious by whom exactly?

Enter into the fray, the Greenzone system, free to use and it detects sims that are employing redzone and provides you with instructions on how to avoid being scanned. This product can of course be used by those with malicious intent, so now we get to the point where redzone users think greenzone users are bad and start adding those who are preventing this intrusive scanning to the redzone ban list. There are also rumours that those who turn off media options or add the redzone domains to their firewalls or local hosts file are being added to redzone banlists, which if true is due to further paranoia.

The whole thing is getting out of control, the alts issue is one whereby people are able to be incredibly nosey regarding Second Life, the data is simply not fit for purpose for wider consumption, there’s no need for anyone to be able to view everyone’s alts, even if the system does what it says it can, which brings us to another point, there’s a very low number of the alleged 77,000 banned accounts on the database who are there due to copybot detection and even then it’s questionable whether there’s a 100% accuracy rating for those alleged copybotters.

Then we have the issue of boycotts, with people threatening to boycott stores that use the redzone system. Are they threatening to boycott because they support content theft and griefing? No they’re threatening to boycott because the redzone system is too intrusive and they see that as griefing, we’re into two wrongs not making a right here.

There is no easy solution here, this is going to rumble on and on until Linden Lab do something about it. The positive features of the redzone system such as increased ban lists and web controlled access are heavily outweighed by the bad parts of the system, if the creator of the system could see this point, then he might be able to come up with an acceptable system, however to do that he’d have to dilute some of his selling points of the system.

I have every sympathy with content creators who want to protect their creations, but when the tools they use for that are in themselves causing problems for users, then they are just adding to the problem, not providing solutions, it’s time for all parties here to sit down and look at what’s happening, because this isn’t good for Second Life at the moment and it’s time to stop the neener neener gesturing and look at the bigger picture.

10 Replies to “Fear and Loathing in the Redzone”

  1. As a content creator, I’d like to see more done to assist in stopping content ripping; however, this tool (as we are agreed) is in no way an assistance, and the issues surrounding it far outweigh any perceived benefits.

    By the creator’s own figures, the “success” rate in detecting Viewers capable of ripping content is some 0.25%. Yet, off the back of that, the system has been used to ban some 63,000 avatar accounts. Leaving aside the potential for people to be using this tool as a general security system (unlikely given its $17 USD price tag in comparison to more robust security systems), this means the majority of banned avatars are banned on the basis of either guilt-by-association (they share the same IP address as a “Copybot” Viewer) or part of personal vendettas / actions.

    RedZone is founded on a placebo when it comes to protection against content ripping: that a copy-capable Viewer can be detected; sadly, it is not that hard to disguise a content-ripping Viewer by tweaking the code to spoof a “legitimate” Viewer.

    But really, these aren’t the issues. The issues surrounding RedZone is that it is openly promoted as a tool for “outing” people’s alts – so much so that a HUD version now exists which allows the wearer to to visit sims expressly for the purpose of logging the details of unsuspecting avatars for perusal later.

    There is also the ability this tool has for in-world stalking, as it effectively logs avatar moments across the grid and presents them in a database for those willing to pay $17 to study and potentially profile avatars by their activities.

    Beyond this, there are potential ToS violations: Section 8.3 of the ToS specifically prohibits the transmission of information that might be deemed “personal” in nature. Taken individually and independently of one another, IP addresses and avatar profile information can be viewed upon as “public” information; but put them together (as this tool does) and you’re clearly into the realm of transmitting personal information.

    Perhaps the most telling element of this situation is the manner in which those wishing to prevent RedZone from coming to the attention of Linden Labs will go to achieve their aims: as you’ve seen, some very untoward actions have been taken on the JIRA, up to and including misrepresentation of comments be Linden representatives themselves; the publishing of defamatory information relating to critics of the system and (on the official forums) openly linking the names of avatars culled by the system as potential alts of one another.

    None of these acts are justifiable, and none are the actions of individuals interested in reasoned discussion or dealing with the matter of protection against content ripping.

    Sadly, those deploying the tool in the hope it will help them against content ripping aren’t the issue. The vast majority, when faced with the facts about this tool, tend to remove it from their properties.

    The issue is rather about those who *do* use it for its ability to data mine – and who aggressively defend their “right” to do so.

    1. The Hud, as I understand it, has been removed. The comments in the ratings are actually quite telling on how this device is used, one guy is happy that his girlfriend isn’t cheating on him.

      This device has two pro points for me, a longer banlist (not that I’ve ever needed one) and controlling access lists from a webportal, that’s it, the rest of it is unsavoury.

      1. The HUD may have been removed from the marketplace – but that doesn’t mean it is no longer available. It is already in-world, and there is a strong possibility its dissemination has moved in-world as well.

        The RedZone tool itself vanished from the Marketplace as well, but is still available in-world.

        I’d say those pushing this scam are attempting a retrenching exercise, nothing more.

  2. The numbers don’t lie. The copybot effectiveness of the device is miniscule. What this thing *really is* has nothing at all to do with copybot protection- if it does it’s just a hairsbreadth above doing absolutely nothing, and not paying 17 bucks for the privilege.

    It’s a banning tool, a privacy invasion, a griefing tool, and a wet dream for stalkers of all types. Reading their own forums shows their intent openly.

    By the way it’s not just a tool for inworld stalking. Depending on the location of the “victim” –THEIR word, not mine! – narrowing their location down fairly precisely is not that difficult.

    I am all for allowing this thing to be sold as long as it’s not violating TOS (I think it is, but so far the Lab says no, so that’s what we go with.) I am all for people allowing to buy it and make Zfire a bunch of cash. I am all for people being allowed to put it on their land if they choose. But I am *not* for them being able to act as if there should be no *consequences* to those choices. Choosing not to give money to people who knowingly (and don’t kid yourself, many of them are doing it knowingly) decide that your privacy is not worth respecting is not “two wrongs not making a right”. It’s the only redress people have, since the Lab itself is refusing to take action. They will speak with their wallets. Supply and demand.

    1. The copybot numbers are quite compelling, I saw a comment that Ann OToole’s cryoban freebie was more effective in deterring copybot and as others here in the comments point out, the real thieves will easily avoid redzone detection, it really does seem to be primarily a nosey parker device, the ratings make quite disturbing reading.

  3. An aspect I never see get mentioned in discussions about products like this is that motivated thieves do not need to access your land in order to gain access to your products.

    Depending on the method/tool they use to make copies, they can…
    — copy items that are rezzed anywhere in world
    — copy items that people are wearing near them
    — purchase items to copy through the marketplace, or in a yard-sale type setting or other second-hand capacity
    — get a friend with a ‘clean’ IP to purchase for them
    — visit your land with an acceptable viewer to acquire whatever they want/need, but log into their private parcel with the ‘bad’ viewer to do the copying

    The truth is, even if this device managed to ban every copier that visits your land — it prevents nothing. It’s not even really a deterrent.

    As for the objections surrounding the invasive nature of the device, it’s the equivalent of a bricks and mortar business insisting on going through your purse and pockets before you’re allowed to leave their store. Because hey – you’d be just fine with that if you hadn’t stolen anything, right?

    1. Sure, good points, a lot of people use network vendors to try and avoid copybot, but that’s not the point of weakness for copybot to be used, as you say, the items will be taken and copied elsewhere.

      From what I’m reading, the copybot issue is used as a defence of the system, a noble side of it, but as that’s such a small part of how this device is being used, it becomes almost irrelevant in the debate, the bad use of this product far outweights the miniscule amount of good, especially as how good it is at preventing ripping is extremely questionable.

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