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Old 10-25-2003, 09:13 AM   #1
Thain
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It's very possible that this topic could exist elsewhere, but I haven't yet found it. Apologies if so.

I have always had a personal interest in the ethical issues to administration in any large group of people. Muds offer the perfect platform for exploration of these issues.

Casting legalities aside, along with terms of use, agreements and such - is it ethically or morally wrong to monitor the activities of your players? Where is the line drawn when circumstances change? What about internet privacy and the necessary use of registration details and IP logging?

I'd be interested to hear opinions on these and the other issues involved. I've been a reader of this forum for a long time, thought it was finally time to join up.
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Old 10-25-2003, 09:58 AM   #2
Jazuela
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When I was an IMM for one game, our system automatically sent us the IP address of the player logging in. That was the only *player* information we had access to. The admin of the game had other information, because it was a pay-to-play and they had to keep updated account info on that.

As for monitoring *character* activities, I have no problem with that as a player of another game, nor did I have a problem with it as a player in any game I've played. Whether the IMM is looking to make sure I'm not cheating, or looking for an opportunity to enhance my roleplay by checking to see if I'm available for a little impromptu "mini-event," or whether they are rubbing one off behind their computer desk watching some hot mudsex.. who cares, really. I know I don't.

If the players are using a game for OOC purposes, however, I think it's *important* to monitor any suspicious behavior - such as hackers trading hack information, people offering things for sale, people attempting to get other people to meet with them in real life for the purpose of sex, etc. etc. Anything that can create a risk to the integrity of the game or its creators, or possible legal ramifications, should be monitorable.

HOWEVER

I think it's also equally important to let the players know when they log into the game - EACH time they log into the game - that their activities *can* be monitored. That isn't to say that they will be, only that the possibility exists.

That's my opinion on the matter, whether there's any legal or moral or socially acceptable/unacceptable implication in it or not.
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Old 10-25-2003, 12:43 PM   #3
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I have never had any problem with the idea of Imms monitoring players on the MUD, nor have I had any problems with Imms who have monitored me on a MUD.

Players can be a devious bunch, and without some method of tracking IPs and/or snoop, there's no end to the shenanigans they can get up to, especially if they know the MUD in question has a 'no snoop' policy. That doesn't mean that I think snooping should be arbitrary; If the Imm in question has reason to suspect the player is breaking one or more of the MUD's rules, I see no problem with that player being monitored. Indeed, in cases of vindictive finger-pointing by other players, snooping someone can in fact vindicate them.

Every MUD I've ever seen has a set of policies regarding this. If you're somewhere where you feel the policies don't fit your own personal views of privacy or trust, why go there? Likewise, if you feel the people running the place are untrustworthy, why are you there?

I honestly can't think of anything I've ever said or done on a MUD which would be worth snooping, having said that. I'm more likely to get banned for boring an Imm to death than doing anything controversial ;)
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Old 10-25-2003, 09:10 PM   #4
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dude.
you guys are acting like the ability to see a player's IP address is some kind of ultra-controversial, risque thing.
Every time you visit any website, you're letting them see your IP address. So um... stop running around like chickens with your heads cut off. Contrary to common misconception, merely knowing your ip address isnt enough for l33t 4@x0rz to turn your computer into a mindless killing machine from the future soviet union sent to destroy us all.
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Old 10-25-2003, 09:14 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (erdos @ Oct. 25 2003,21:10)
Contrary to common misconception, merely knowing your ip address isnt enough for l33t 4@x0rz to turn your computer into a mindless killing machine from the future soviet union sent to destroy us all.
I am greatly heartened to see that I am not the only one who understands that the so-called "breakup" of the Soviet Union was nothing more than a clever plot to deceive the world into thinking communism is going the way of the dodo. Let us band together, my friend, and together we will defeat the looming Red Threat.

--matt
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Old 10-25-2003, 09:50 PM   #6
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Snoop has remarkable abilities for teaching as well as monitoring both quests and the actual normal gameplay as seen by players. I've taken it a step further and added in Rev_Snoop which shows the targeted person everything I see on my screen. I don't think anyone can disagree with the value of the command for building but like all "good" commands, it has multiple functions and a boon to administration of a world.

Most people I've met and spoken with dislike being snooped or even the hint they might be snooped regardless of any disclaimers posted by the world. There seems to be the presumption of "violating their space" in a public access area and how dare we do such a thing. Ethically, do we have a right to snoop? Mu*s are NOT public access forums governed by the Bill of Rights, they are privately owned and shared games. Yes, I believe we do have a right to use snoop 'but' there should be a clear, common sense reason why you're doing it. I've often used snoop on junior immortals while they were handling an administrative issue and aiding them on another channel. I've caught cheaters, found bugs and verified stalker behaviors when our younger members alert me to the issue.

Occasionally you do accidentally bump into the truly private discussion or the mudsex affair but ethics says zip your lip and back away unless you really need the instruction. I would suggest to anyone though that whatever they see be kept to themselves and not shared. Advertising what you hear is one sure way to decimate your playerbase.
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Old 10-25-2003, 10:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
I would suggest to anyone though that whatever they see be kept to themselves and not shared.
*nod* That's the flipside I completely forgot to mention. When I was an Imm, you didn't reveal anything you learnt to other players through Imm commands. If you caught someone multiplaying or botting or whatever through a player tip-off which turned out to be right after observation, the player who reported it would not know even if the other person had punished, or even monitored. Barring obvious nukes/bans/etc, obviously ;)

Being able to "Violate someone's privacy" doesn't mean you have to do it publically.
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Old 10-26-2003, 01:48 AM   #8
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I'll begin by saying that we are roleplay-enforced, and that one of our primary rules is that all mortal-mortal interaction is done In Character.  Immortal-mortal interaction is usually In Character also, except in cases like rules violations, bug reports, applying to join the staff, etc.

As such, the only reason an Immortal has to observe a mortal is to monitor roleplaying quality, and to make sure the rules are being followed.  If any Immortal was approaching mortals about OOC stuff like selling stuff or asking for personal info, they'd be disciplined and probably demoted or removed outright.  Also, any information they gather while observing is kept to the staff, except for IC consequences like a special reward for good roleplay, like when a character becomes known by a customized title, or they are elevated to a leadership position of one of our organizations.

If you care about maintaining a fair playing field (especially for a game like ours where there is a strong competitive element), you have to watch for cheating, and the only way to watch for cheating is to do it unannounced.  Likewise, it's very useful to observe someone's roleplay when they least suspect anyone is watching.  

Since these two things are a huge part of running our game, and everything you're supposed to be doing is In Character anyway, and we're providing a rather sophisticated game for free.... I don't feel we're legally or morally obligated to obtain permission to observe player characters.  We freely admit this up front, and I've never received a complaint from a player about it.  Actually, the usual complaint we get through our feedback mechanisms is that players want us to pay more attention, since they like the special interactions and rewards that stem from it.

If you run a game where you cross over into OOC, I agree that there might be additional complications.  Once things are OOC and they have nothing to do with IC actions, I don't think your authority as a staff member makes it right for you to collect privileged information.  At the very least, I think you'd want to put a disclaimer in your login message or an easily accessible helpfile, so people know they might be being observed.
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Old 10-26-2003, 10:21 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (erdos @ Oct. 26 2003,01:10)
Contrary to common misconception, merely knowing your ip address isnt enough for l33t 4@x0rz to turn your computer into a mindless killing machine from the future soviet union sent to destroy us all.
I'm rather more interested in the ethical issues than the practicalities.

Having said that, from a static IP, a talented individual could do alot of damage if they wished. I fear that's another discussion.

Thain.
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Old 10-26-2003, 10:34 AM   #10
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It seems then, that the ethical issue is rather what the motivation for snooping is. For enhancing roleplay and for administration over problem players it is vital, I agree.

If I were the owner of a Mu*, I am almost certain I would 'snoop' on my immortals (I prefer the term 'monitor) until such time as I can be assured they are fundamentally trustworthy. In an environment where I haven't met them face to face, to expect anything less of me would be naive, I feel..

The main problem ethically is that of illusion. Most muds create the illusion that the individual and his conversation with another is entirely between the two of them. You are taught that you can view beings in your 'area' (or room) yet any number of hidden 'people' could be right there reading your input.

To that end, how can the practice of snooping, for all its benefits, not be classed as 'unethical'?

Thain.
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Old 10-26-2003, 11:38 AM   #11
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What confuses me about this issue is not whether "snooping" is ethical, but why some contend that it is not.
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Old 10-26-2003, 11:49 AM   #12
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I suspect it's a case of people bringing their RL ethics into a MUD environment. People expect a right to privacy in the real world, just like they expect the right to freedom of speech, etc.

In a MUD, however, your 'rights' are usually pretty clearly laid out. Most MUDs have a restriction on what you can or can't say on channels, be it no OOC talk, or just the usual no flaming/personal attacks/advertising. The only people who cry that this is a restriction of their rights, at least in my experience, are the flamers/harrassers/spam advertisers.

So, yeah. If people don't get upset about that, why get upset about snooping?
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Old 10-26-2003, 12:07 PM   #13
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I should have added:

We even have several player abilities which allow them to pick up remote or you-thought-it-was-private conversation. So not only might our immortals be listening in, but a conjurer may be manipulating the local planes to scry, or an Imperial Shadow could be skulking near, etc.

Again, since everything's IC between mortals (and Immortals are beyond the power of these kinds of abilities) we don't have a problem with this vis-a-vis privacy. After all, the purpose of these powers is to find out what is happening behind closed doors, and it serves a useful IC function.
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Old 10-29-2003, 12:19 AM   #14
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Unhappy

As a coder, I modified the snoop command to take an extra argument, namely a string representing the reason for the snoop, it was not allowed to be empty, and ALL imms were told that ALL snoops are logged with,
Quote:
Originally Posted by
- Who was snooping,
- The target of the snoop,
- GMT time/date,
- The Mud time/date, and
- The reason given.
It also logged the time(s) and date(s) when the snoop ended. Imms are considered to be trusted members of a muds community, and they ideally should trust other imms as well, if they have a good reason to snoop, alls well, but nonsense reasons, or repeated long snoops to no result are something to look into.

So far, it has gone well, the imms realise they cannot just snoop because they are bored, and the players are aware that imms might snoop them, and hopefully accept that an imm who is doing something dodgy with it will be caught (fingers crossed)

It is something to consider, I know people who feel paranoid that "big brother" might be listening to their phone calls, but if you think about it, alot of countries need(ed?) a court order to set up a tap (a bit painful to do with a mud, always going to top admins for permission), and there should be a record of every tap set up. It seems a reasonable enough model to me, if the police went around randomly tapping calls, just cause they were bored, they would get caught out, and they would get punished. So that is what I tried (am trying) to acheive.
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Old 10-29-2003, 12:32 AM   #15
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*nod again* I have no problem with the owner 'watching the watchmen'. If anything, Imms should be more careful in sticking to the MUD rules than the players should. I believe Aard has a similar system, where a lot of the Imm commands are logged.
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Old 10-29-2003, 04:49 AM   #16
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I think my main issue with snooping can be summed up thusly:

There have been times when I've had a less-than-stellar opinion of someone on the Imm staff. Discussions had arisen in private converstation concerning events that had occurred and things that were said. In such situations, it bothers me a bit that I'm made to feel like I need to carry on these conversations through instant messages or emails, lest that particular Imm be snooping me at the time, and catch me saying something unsavory about them. It's uncomfortable to occasionally feel as though you aren't allowed to have (and share) an opinion without the fear of retribution.

Of course, that could just be my paranoia.
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Old 10-29-2003, 05:53 PM   #17
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Anything you say, type or whatever can be potentially seen, logged or otherwise documented. That's a fact of life that even Karlan's technique can't compensate for. Even logs can be masterfully doctored to say exactly what the surgeon wishes if they're skilled enough.

The moral of that is don't say anything you wouldn't repeat to the immortal or player in person, ever. Even the AIM etcs can be logged and distributed.
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