VR and the metaverse could make data surveillance even worse

VR digital surveillance
Image by Seamartini | Bigstockphoto

ITEM: The metaverse is likely to take data surveillance to whole new levels of creepy, thanks to the ability of VR goggles to collect even more data about you than traditional screens.

According to a report in the Washington Post last week:

… [V]irtual reality (VR) headsets can collect more data about us than traditional screens, which gives companies more opportunities to take and share that data for profiling and advertising. They could also give employers more ways to monitor our behavior and even our minds. There’s little stopping the government from getting its hands on body-related data from VR tech, and there’s little in place to protect us and our kids from unrestricted data gathering and psychological manipulation, say digital rights advocates and experts following the industry.

Much of this has to do with the fact that VR will increasingly sport features such as eye tracking, which generates data that developers use for things like, say, figuring out which game objects need to be HD and which can be lower-resolution for peripheral vision. But it can also be used by advertisers to see where our attention is focused, or by employers to make sure you’re paying attention during VR meetings.

All of this is especially concerning because Meta Platforms (as we’re supposed to call Facebook now) has a long history of harvesting user data and then apologizing for it later. Meta has recently been granted patents for technology that can track your entire body in the metaverse. According to Business Insider, the patent applications say very little about privacy or how the data from full-body tracking will be used. That’s a problem because if privacy safeguards aren’t integrated into Meta’s VR tech now during the development phase, it may be extremely difficult to do so later, the report says.

That’s not reassuring, given that one of Meta’s purported goals in developing the metaverse is to create an OS that will free itself from the data collection restrictions imposed on Facebook by Apple App Store and Google Play Store for smartphones. A vertical Meta/Facebook/Oculus play would give the company even more data to monetize than it already has.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course – but that will depend on how much progress is made on data privacy and the rights of data owners to control what data can be used.

Full story here. [$]

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