Roaming Bots and Privacy

What About My Privacy?!

Second Life is meant to be an interactive social environment, so it isn't very private. If you won't want other people in the world being aware of you, remove yourself from search, buy a private estate, ban everyone, and stay there. For true(r) privacy, run your own OpenSim. Sounds great, huh?

The same privacy considerations that apply to "real" avatars apply to all bots. Bots cannot read your IMs (unless you IM them!), inventory, or friends lists. Bots can receive local chat within a range just like any other avatar. Bots could record public voice (again, within a range). If you list groups or picks in your profile, bots can see that just like anyone else—same with your public "feed." Bots can use Second Life search features.

Bots can go anywhere that's publicly accessible. The best way to keep bots off your land is to ban them. If you see an unexplained avatar turning up, put it on your ban list—your land, your rules! However, this won't prevent bots from detecting your presence on a region: just like a "real" avatar, they can be aware of anyone on the same region (and, to a lesser extent, adjacent regions), regardless of whatever parcel(s) you or a bot are in.

Be aware that maintaining a banlist will require constant effort. Some bot cohorts regularly retire old avatars and cycle in new members, so you'd have to keep an eye out for new candidates (I'd recommend some sort of scripted visitor log). If you're deeply concerned, consider using your land's access lists to only permit certain known-friendly avatars to enter. You could also consider restricting access to avatars with payment info on file or barring avatars younger than 30 days; however, these restrictions may keep out legitimate visitors. Also, some roaming bots have payment info on file, and most cohorts that cycle in new bots plan more than 30 days in advance.

Why Don't You Publish a List?!

Mainly because I don't need the drama, but it's also not my place. I'm not the police, and, amazingly, I am not responsible for setting or enforcing rules in Second Life. Also, I don't truly know what all these bots do, but I know (or suspect) some support efforts like GridSurvey that benefit the SL community.

If you think a bot (or any other avatar) is violating TOS, file an abuse report. That's what I do. As of May 2021, I've reported thirteen semi-roaming bots for activities I could demonstrate were violating LL terms of service, and about another 90-ish non-roaming bots and bot-like accounts primarily used by griefers and scammers. Most of those accounts either stopped behaviours violating TOS or are no longer on the grid (although, in some cases, that took a while).

Don't like the bot situation in Second Life? I can only suggest taking it up with the Lindens. One way to do that might be the Governance office hours, which I think are inworld every third Tuesday. I cannot imagine the Lindens feel the current bot policies set in stone, and would consider amending/updating them based on community feedback.