When Paola Letizia’s “Pet Society” virtual home was broken into and cleaned out (except for the cat), she called the real Italian police — and they have responded by investigating this crime of “abusive and aggravated entry” into her Facebook and email accounts.
“Pet Society” is a game by Playfish that allows players to furnish virtual homes and buy virtual gifts for their virtual pets through Facebook. Letizia had built up a seven-room palace, which included a pool table, for her online Blue Cat; the accoutrements cost her around $140, but then someone hacked her account by apparently stealing her password and took everything from the house, leaving only the cat behind.
“I don’t think it matters that the flat only exists in Facebook,” Letizia is quoted as saying to an Italian journalist. “It is real to me and I have suffered a real loss.” Letizia noted she felt like “someone had violated my privacy and my habits.”
As noted by MSNBC, Pet Society apparently does not offer virtual home alarm systems.
Although one Italian official suggested closing the case, Letizia pushed her lawyers to press on, which has resulted in an investigation searching for the hacker; the culprit could face up to five years in prison.
This may seem to be a silly case to some, but as online games with micropayments become more popular — especially with children — could this type of stealing become a real problem? What if the sum of money spent was considerably more than $140? Should there be some kind of laws protecting online game players against having their hours of playing time and financial investments in games “thrown to the wind” as one Italian article put it? Or are online users on their own to make sure their passwords are secure?
What do you think?