The metaverse could turn your body into a data collection tool
The Future. If we’re not careful, the arrival of the metaverse could be way worse for data privacy than traditional social media already is, thanks to the tracking power of VR and AR technology. The concerns may be (mostly) manageable… but only if governments update laws, platforms stay transparent, and users push for features that obscure data collection, especially on physical reactions like eye movements.
Privacy advocates are sounding the alarm on the metaverse.
- The metaverse will be accessible through VR and AR, which could be used by companies to track users’ physical responses to advertising or other media.
- Kavya Pearlman, founder of the XR Safety Initiative, says that “At any given time, the way you move, the way your gait is, the way you’re gazing, your pupil dilation, is giving away information to developers.”
- These data points could be used to create a user profile that details subconscious states, mental states, or a health issue before a person even recognizes them or seeks medical or psychological attention.
In those instances, the data could be used to subtly manipulate users or even, if shared with third parties like an insurance company, lead to premium hikes. Data privacy laws will need to be updated to reflect changing technologies and their related privacy issues and economic possibilities.
Meta under a microscope
And it’s impossible to have a discussion about the metaverse without mentioning Meta (formally Facebook), which is trying to transform into a metaverse company. Unfortunately, Meta is notorious for alleged data abuses, paying billions in fines.
For its part, Meta says that it has pledged $50 million to outside researchers to focus on privacy and security on the platform, while its VR arm, Reality Labs, is issuing its own research grants. Considering that Meta has recently kept data hidden from outside researchers, expect the privacy community to keep a close eye on the company.