All conversations are being recorded

The Walls Have Ears

On the existence of watchful eyes, listening ears, and the carefully-compiled logs of the marketeers.

Or in the words of Andy Grove:
Only the Paranoid Survive.

In October of 96, we saw a new site Boardwalk.intel.com with a never-before-seen signon announcement.

*** NOTE: All conversations on this server are being recorded.

They actually do mean it everything, including whispers and ESPs and anything said anywhere. Recorded. Logged. Presumably archived, probably analysed, all declared ©1996 Intel, and perhaps even sold to AltaVista, HotWired, Sally Jesse Raphael, or Proctor & Gamble.
They've set a custom option of the Palace server, and it's trapping every last thing. Perhaps some clever marketroid is busy generating sales projections based on how many times people say the word "shop" while logged-in there. Maybe someone is carefully compiling a banlist based on who might whisper something nice about Motorola.
What is their game here? Why doesn't this X, for one, feel somehow "protected" by the watchful eye of Intel? The going *rumor* is that Intel execs didn't even want to have the announcement they wanted to just go ahead and record surreptitiously. People don't need to know they're being robo-watched.
Here's a bit of the gate image (©1996 Intel, presented here under the auspices of fair use):

By entering the boardwalk, you agree to the house rules and disclaimer

Which house rules and disclaimer are these? Typing "House rules" or "disclaimer" at the gate didn't do anything. Moving to the "info" room merely presents us with another button marked "web page" that leads... nowhere.

Here's their web address: http://connectedpc.com/iaweb/boardwalk
For a week, I tried to connect to it dozens of times, but I continued to get a "The server does not have a DNS entry" error (i.e., "no such place."). One is reminded of the cartooned company suggestion box that leads to the wastebasket.
However, the link should be valid now. Read it for yourself. The rules and disclaimer mention nothing about their comprehensive chat trap, except perhaps for tangential references to "some limited review of the conduct and language of Boardwalk users," which is immediately followed by a disclaimer obviating Intel from liability "for any harm or damage that you or others may incur from or in the Boardwalk."
"From" their own choice of words?

29 Oct - 5 Nov 96

The Boardwalk Responds

RE: Boardwalk.intel.com

Matt, [who?] the main reason for keeping server logs is to help us to train the housekeeping Bots we're developing for the Boardwalk with realistic dialog transcripts. And yes, we might look at them from time to time (we haven't yet) to see if there are any hot technology trends or recurring topics that people might want to hear Intel host a topic chat on in a future session.

We are adjusting the FAQ we post on the web http://connectedpc.com/iaweb/boardwalk/tips.htm to reflect the reason we capture dialog on the site. And no, sorry to disappoint, but we have no plans to sell this dialog! No games, no traps! OK?

Also, sorry for the trouble you had connecting to & linking between the Boardwalk Palace and the Boardwalk web pages. We had a couple of startup hiccups, but the links should be pretty stable now. I hope that *anybody* is still entitled to the occasional broken link on a bad net day. As for the rumor you mention..it is only that - a rumor.

Rob (aka "marketroid")
Intel Product Manager
7 Nov 96

X responds:

Thanks for these quick and important clarifications, Rob ("marketroid"? Really?). Boardwalk is clearly defining itself as a different sort of palace environment from most palaces, including Communities.com's Mansion. It's hosted a number of daytime open, very public events, and seems to do well at them.

Having different notions of what connotes Palace-life social order is, to my mind, a good thing. Some aspects of palace interaction seem fixed, part of the universal "social contract," while others are not. One aspect that I think should be recognized as universal is the privacy of whisper mode, even in a highly-public space like the Boardwalk.

As is the X style, I have a technological suggestion: ban whisper mode. It's easy enough to do without further server modifications, and can even be permitted for wizards (or who can just use the ~page channel anyway). Just include a script spot like this in each public room...

		"" CHATSTR =
		"This is a Public Whisper-Free Zone" STATUSMSG
...which still allows all users to whisper with wizards (for tech support etc), and makes the open-boardwalk policy politely clear.

Palace Inc Weighs In

(From the PUG Mailing List)

Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 18:25:46 -0800
From: Jim Bumgardner
Subject: Privacy - a few facts

Just wanted to clear up some misinformation that has been spread the last couple days:

  • Fact: On the "main" server and most other servers (Intel's Boardwalk being a notable exception), no one can hear you whisper, and chat is NOT being logged. Not even a god can hear you whisper (unless you are whispering to the god).

  • Fact: On PC and Mac servers, there are no features in the software for either eavesdropping or chat logging. If you issue a whisper, and it appears in italics on the screen, it's a whisper.

  • Fact: Contrary to popular belief, you can't use iptscrae to eavesdrop on people. Whispers always appear in italics, and there is no way to transmit chat without the speaker seeing it.

  • Fact: The new unix servers do indeed have the capability to record chat (a feature which is being used at the Intel Boardwalk site, and may be used at other sites, at the operator's discretion).

We intentionally designed this feature to warn people: everyone gets a message when they sign in saying that "all conversations on this server are being recorded". This message is hard-wired into the server so that it can not be turned off by the server operator. If chat logging is turned on, users will always get this message.

* * *

I should also mention that I agree with the comments that say there is no real privacy on the Internet. We have tried very hard, in designing the palace servers, to make it difficult for server operators to eavesdrop, without the users knowing about it. For example, chat and whispers are encrypted to discourage casual eavesdropping with a packet sniffer. However, our efforts to make this difficult don't make it impossible.

Jim Bumgardner