One of the hardest things for people to do in Second Life is to protect their identity, in a world whose very nature is social and promotes closeness and openness sometimes its very hard to gauge what an appropriate amount of personal information to share is. When love comes into play, this can complicate matters drastically as the person we once thought was the perfect mate now becomes a stalker we can’t get rid of. Sometimes if real life information has been shared, these people will call us at home or at work and in one case that I heard about actually show up at your door.
Most of these are edge cases, they aren’t things that happen to most of us and it’s very likely anything this dramatic will never be encountered in your time in Second Life. That said, talk to most people in Second Life who have been around any length of time and they will talk about the hurt resulting from relationships turned sour. In this case, it's often wise to keep some distance between yourself and others. The question becomes, how can we do this without appearing either overly paranoid or opening ourselves up to being hurt. The fact is that with the modern Internet and the developments in VOIP and other technologies, it is now possible to be very open and still maintain a healthy level of anonymity. Let’s take a look at some tools that are free or cost a nominal amount that are designed to give you this layer of protection. Keep in mind that these services work for me and your mileage may vary, the inclusion of a service here does not imply endorsement of these services by Second Life, The Second Life Inquirer, or any of its affiliates.
- http://www.tossabledigits.com - Tossable Digits can create a phone number in any state in the US and in several countries around the world. This number is then forwarded to another number of your choice. This allows you to share telephone numbers and talk with people and not have to give out your real info.
- http://voice.google.com - Like Tossable Digits but more permanent, this let’s you establish a phone number and voice mail for your online persona as well as forward calls to your choice of lines.
- http://www.gmail.com - Creating a gmail acount for your online persona is basic and easy, all the google services base off this so you can have an entire suite of available services that anonymize you.
- http://www.mailinator.com - A one time email is a very useful thing, you can give it out in a pinch and never have to worry about it again. This provides a way to give anonymity to a persona that might be role play only or that you might not plan on keeping around long.
- http://www.skype.com - Skype is voice over IP and you can create unlimited skype accounts, having one for each persona can be a good idea and this way you have a means to talk with people outside Second Life and still maintain anonymity. It also provides IM and file sharing.
- https://skypefx.codeplex.com/ - This program (not free) will allow you to change your voice, so if anonymity is really important you can entierly disguise how you sound.
- http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/ - You can actually create a fake RL persona for your online persona to share. This service will help you provide something believable, but it's a surface identity so if anyone goes looking into it too deeply they will find nothing.
- http://www.burnerapp.com/ - This let’s you create disposable cell numbers that can also SMS on the fly. It can be very useful in a pinch, and allows you to share text/phone information with a person and still pull back if needed.
- http://www.spoofcard.com/ - Allows you to change the outgoing callerid on a number so that you can appear to be someone you’re not. If you’re going to develop an online persona this can come in pretty handy.
- http://www.trapcall.com/ - This allows you to unblock callerid, if a person calls from a blocked line it will unblock that line and display the information on whose calling. There is no way to prevent this so remember when you call someone, you are giving out your callerid information! See spoofcard above!
As you can see there are a large number of tools available online to aid in the protection of your identity and still allow you to connect with other people. With a little care and thoughtfulness, it's possible to share means of contact and still duck out of a situation if things get weird or not to your liking. Remember, anyone harassing you should also have an abuse report filed with Linden Labs regarding the situation as well. I hope you found this information helpful, and please try to stay safe in the virtual world.