The growth of virtual communities across the Web as a communications channel creates a double-edged sword in this respect. Second Life and its ilk offer a growing abundance of information, although this information will ultimately need to be protected if virtual communities are to grow as meaningful channels of business-to-business and business-to-customer communication.
"With millions of people playing Second Life and companies building facilities there, it may be that [virtual communities] become the preferred medium of human communication," said Diffie at Thursday's conference, his long silver hair resting on the shoulders of his blue suit. With this growing volume of information comes the opportunity to use virtual communities as a source of intelligence, he said, adding, "Communications will always be spied on."
Of course, the volume of businesses present in virtual communities such as Second Life will have to grow before they become a meaningful source of information. Once this happens, though, watch out. "Communication always outstrips the ability to protect it," Diffie later told InformationWeek.
Who would be interested in gathering intelligence floating through virtual communities? Only businesses, governments (domestic and foreign), and reporters -- the same entities that have adapted every other form of communication preceding the Web. Said Diffie, "The future will be a golden age for intelligence."