Metaverse is the buzzword right now, and why not? The technology seems disruptive because essentially, it’s a whole new world. A virtual world that has never been so real before.
The metaverse brings in real-world concepts such as education, commerce, social life, and corporate and blends them with cryptocurrency, blockchain, and DAO to essentially correct all the inefficiencies in the real world.
However, Metaverse is also an explosion of information, and with that comes, privacy issues. People fear the following issues mainly while adopting the Metaverse.
Metaverse Privacy Issues
Metaverse involves so many connected devices and the different components in the virtual world can cause some serious privacy issues.
1. Augmented Reality Security Issues
The technology itself is quite new and is set to be widely adopted by the masses. Advancements in AR, while providing more immersiveness to the Metaverse, need new approaches and means to access more data. This means making user security more vulnerable.
The AR device does connect to the internet so there’s always a chance for it to be hacked. It is still not yet known what the consequences would be but definitely, important user data including their biometric information could be in danger of being exposed.
The AR firms are still in the initial stages of creating an SoP for processing user data, and they need to decide where the data is stored and what would be the methods of encryption.
Following that, it is still a concern whether the companies will share the AR data with third parties (like how common social media platforms do) and for what purpose?
2. Identification Thefts
One of the biggest privacy issues in the Metaverse right now – anyone who has access to your credentials can completely impersonate you in the virtual world.
The consequences are large in fact because then they would have access to all your virtual life (from education to jobs to livelihood and even your economics).
VR technologies power the Metaverse and another concern with identity theft is that there are plenty of machine learning algorithms that can mimic your virtual voice and visuals to make it authentic enough.
For instance, if the hackers have gained access to motion-sensor data of the VR and use these, they can generate digital signatures on behalf of the victim causing a form of social engineering attack.
3. Lack of Physical World Perception
One of the Metaverse privacy challenges is the minimized perception of the physical world. One reason for the heavy projected popularity of the metaverse is the degree of immersiveness it provides.
The VR on which it is based cuts the user from the real world for quite some period, almost cutting entirely their audio-visual connection with the real world.
This can lead to physical security issues in the real world so users must develop strong surroundings awareness.
4. Conflict among Different User Groups
Like in the real world, the metaverse is also essentially where people of different ideologies coexist. This could potentially mix groups who have opposing ideas and viewpoints and this can lead to privacy issues.
A sign of it is already being seen in MMORPG environments where it has been shown that cyber-bullying is prevalent against low-skilled and female players.
Therefore, expect some radicalization and polarisation to become commonplace in the metaverse.
Also Read: What is Metaverse And How Does It Work?
How Do You Protect Your Privacy in the Metaverse?
The first step is to know what risks you may encounter while using the Metaverse. Be aware that from the moment you log in and wear that VR headset, there is excessive data collected as direct as your name, address, and phone number to the nuances of your eye movements, biometrics, etc.
Also note that the Metaverse has so many devices interconnected with each other and each one is connected to the Internet, there are multiple pathways that can be used to hack. The first step to protecting your privacy is being aware.
The second step is to invest a good amount of money in top cybersecurity software. Secure your home’s Internet connection with VPN, and do not access the Metaverse through public networks.
Keep your passwords strong. Following this, setting up a firewall will ensure external attacks are prevented as it differentiates between safe and unsafe data entering your home.
Also, enable multi-cloud threat detection that removes malware from your devices and saves your devices and data from breaches.
How Can You Stay Safe While Interacting With Others In Virtual Spaces?
Understand that the virtual world has many things similar to the real world, therefore, you need to practice the same caution. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Some avatars in the Metaverse may be creepy, intimidating and even dangerous. Although, there is no physical danger at all, your mind may still trigger danger. If you ever come across such avatars, cut all communication from them and avoid confrontation.
- Differentiate between avatars who are genuinely having a conversation and those who are selling something, or convincing you of something. The product may not be bad in all cases but understand whether it is beneficial to you and step away from it if you are feeling uncomfortable emotionally with the persuasion.
- Be aware of the risks while interacting with new avatars, not everyone will want to connect with you with a healthy intention. Avoid getting into conversations that are sexual, derogatory, and do not take a contact with the person beyond the metaverse world, to the real world in the form of calls, texting etc.
What Precautions Should You Take Before Revealing Any Personal Details About Yourself Online?
It’s tricky to keep your identity secretive in the virtual world even if it’s easier to stay anonymous. It’s the immersiveness of Metaverse that is expected to coax a lot of people to reveal unwanted and unsolicited details. Practice the following handy tips:
- With time, there will be so many different metaverses and you will be spoilt for choice. Ensure to sign up only on the one that is popular and has been around for some time.
- While using the Metaverse, do not fall into traps and scams of revealing your personal details without knowing the true intention behind it. If it is with another avatar, ensure you know about them thoroughly before taking their communication to the real world.
- Keep a limit on personal information you would like to share, and anything beyond that is off-limit. Don’t make it easy for people to cross this boundary.
- If you receive any personal information, dispose of it immediately if it does not concern you. Do not engage with it.
Also Read: Best Metaverse Business Ideas
Applicability of Data Protection Laws in Metaverse
Overall, since the Metaverse is so new, data protection laws have not yet been clearly defined. Some of these existing laws may also have to be adapted because the Metaverse allows recording many different types of new data such as eye movements, head movements, facial emotions, etc.
Some say the UK’s Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation may apply but it is never known when.
Also note that there is some inaccessibility in the Metaverse because it is powered by blockchain and decentralization, whose objective is to not have any authority from a central organization.
It is also not yet known the geographical scopes of applicability of these data laws, are since Metaverse’s location is not yet clearly defined too.
These are some of the popular data privacy concerns with the Metaverse. The fundamental issue is that there is plenty of new data, new hardware, new software, and all this in much larger numbers than ever before. It will be interesting to see how companies and governments adapt to this.