Gartner warns that Second Life presents risks for companies

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Conformity and security confidentiality risks are among the concerns that prompt Gartner to advise companies to moderate their enthusiasm for using virtual worlds to establish business connections. The consultant believes that companies must rationally assess the benefits and dangers before moving on to the terrain of the virtual world, such as Second Life.

The analysis comes at a time of growing enthusiasm for Second Life, where companies are creating structures to make presentations and work meetings, seeking to capture a new range of customers and taking advantage of all the media coverage guaranteed by the virtual worlds. Some companies that entered this world earlier – such as IBM – are already setting rules of conduct for employees who represent them online trying to avoid unpleasantness.

Gartner warns that companies must protect their brands and reputation but also consider risks of computer security and data confidentiality. The consultant points out that users can download applications to their computers, which leads the company to recommend the use of firewalls.

Another of Gartner’s concerns is related to the identification of the users behind the avatars, which is difficult even because the same person can have several presences in Second Life. This issue can have a big impact especially when considering the use of virtual worlds to hold online «meetings».

Online conversations should also avoid confidential matters, or sensitive business information, as this is not a secure environment.

Of course, Gartner’s warnings also include the negative effect that participation in virtual worlds can have on users’ productivity, although he admits that this reason, seen in isolation, is not a reason to block access and not take advantage of potential benefits of these worlds.

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