Metaverse and its implications on user privacy

Metaverse and its implications on user privacy

With Facebook changing its name to Meta, the buzz around Metaverse has tripled with people and companies clamouring to be a part of it.

LifeReady Team
LifeReady Team

The world of 3-D simulation is already known to us through games such as Pokémon Go, World of Warcraft, Fortnite, etc. But now the world of virtual reality is being taken to a completely new level with Facebook spending nearly $10 billion to build metaverse related technology, Microsoft introducing new features for users to hold meetings and collaborate on projects as their customized avatars (your virtual persona) in a simulated digital space, and Nvidia, a graphics-chip firm, developing simulation tools of its own to enter the Meta-world universe.

But do you know what a Metaverse is?


But do you know what a Metaverse is?

Let’s have a look at it:

A Metaverse is a virtual reality space or a virtual world where users can interact with other users and objects in a computer-generated environment. In fact, a Metaverse is not a new concept. It originated in 1992 in a science fiction novel called Snow Crash coined by Neal Stephenson in which the protagonist moves in and out of a virtual world created via code where users can have a lifelike experience.

A Metaverse is a cyberspace where you live in a 3-D digital universe with endless possibilities. You can connect and meet with other people, play your favorite games, shop at your favorite stores, buy land, attend conferences, and even take virtual tours of different places using custom avatars all while sitting in the comfort of your home.

Is Metaverse a privacy nightmare? Are we moving towards a world of no privacy?

The idea of using metaverse technology to meet our near-and-dear ones virtually, using customized avatars in virtual games without leaving our homes seems to be a thrilling and fun experience. But every coin has two facets. While a metaverse could enhance our virtual experiences in an unimaginably great manner, many experts are concerned about how a metaverse can put users’ privacy at risk. While it is likely that a world based on consumers' usage of immersive technology will generate new types of personal data, a variety of viewpoints and approaches to data management are emerging.

In the same way that consumer data has fuelled tailored experiences in the existing digital sphere, information about a user's location and demographics, as well as their browsing habits and friends' attributes, will inform how brands try to approach them in a metaverse.

From our gait to our gaze, every piece of information will be collected and analyzed by developers and marketing firms. And while this may provide users with an immersive and value-based experience, it also exposes their data to be harvested by tech giants and advertising firms.

The risk of having our data being compromised and tracked, amongst other things, increases dramatically. Think of Cambridge Analytica but at a much higher level as our entire lives’ information/data will be at the mercy of these platforms to mine and harvest for their personal gain.

We interviewed our CISO and security expert at LifeReady on his views on a Metaverse and how it could have an impact on our privacy.

‘’Technically, there is no reason why a metaverse service need have a negative impact upon users' privacy. In principle, a combination of the service strictly following the principle of least privilege and opt-in controls for users would go a long way towards ensuring privacy. In short, this would mean the service would only collect the minimum amount of data required to deliver a function that the user has requested’’ said David.

In practice, however, this is unlikely to be the case according to him. ‘’A metaverse, in any reasonable form, would be costly to create and maintain, and would almost certainly be a commercial endeavor. While the costs could be borne solely by the users, it is far more likely that the primary financial supporters of the service are non-users, third-party customers. In such a case, the users become the commodity of trade, and the incentive of the provider is to maximise their value to the third parties. The primary factor of value is user data, and so the provider is incentivized to capture and extract as much user data as possible for effective resale, which is almost diametrically opposed to protecting the users' privacy.’’

How, then, can we protect our privacy online?

The purpose of this blog is not to scare you but to make you aware of how you can make the best use of metaverse and safeguard your privacy online. Just being cautious and taking extra steps can go a long way in protecting your privacy online. Here are the steps recommended by our cybersecurity expert David to protect our data and ourselves:

Know the threats and potential risks: It’s very hard to safeguard yourself unless you know what you are protecting yourself against. Excessive data collection, constant surveillance, cyber-attacks, and identity theft are some of the potential threats to user privacy. Being aware of them and what could be done to fight them can help you use metaverse technology without constantly worrying about your private information being compromised.

Know your rights and proceed with caution: As not much is known about a metaverse at this stage, it’s a good idea to always proceed with caution and be selective about the platforms, services, and devices you use. Be selective about the people you interact with and what information you exchange with each other. With the increased risks of identity theft, it’s always a possibility that the people you are interacting with might not actually be what you think of them.

Always read and understand the privacy policy and terms & conditions: Reading terms and conditions is the most boring task for many of us and we love skipping them. But it is highly recommended to read and understand them and the privacy policies so that you can be aware and make an informed decision on whether to use a specific metaverse platform or service by considering the cost-benefit balance of the platform.

Invest in cyber security software: This is where most people think about saving a few bucks and end up compromising their safety and security online. It’s always a good idea to invest in decent antivirus software with internet security and a password manager. Consider setting up a firewall to block external threats and unauthorized access. Adding multiple layers of protection can help you keep your confidential information secure online.

Understand what information can be collected:  As the metaverse will likely be free for the users, the source of revenue is the user information collected and harvested by tech companies which is later sold to a third party for monetary benefits.  Users need to be aware of what information is being collected. It’s always a good idea to do a little research about the services and platforms before using them and to read all the terms and conditions properly. Being a little more aware and cautious can save you from regret later on.

It is a brave new world where you can be anything you want and connect with the world from the confinement of your house, leading to an evolution of social interaction for consumers across the globe.

Metaverses are still developing and there is a lot that we don’t know about them. And we can all benefit from it provided we take steps to secure and protect our data just like we do in our physical world.

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If you would like to learn more about how LifeReady can help you organize, store and share your important life information, or try out our platform contact us here: lifeready.io