Metaverse aims to be “a new and better virtual world”. Yes? I’m not as sure as most of you. Zuckerberg, who believes strongly in this idea, would probably say now that what I and others like me might know about it – we are not visionaries. But you don’t have to be a visionary to realize how much trouble the metaverse can cause.
A paper published in ArXiv titled Exploring the Metaverse’s Unprecedented Privacy Risks suggests that there are many privacy flaws in the metaverse. Did someone ever tell you that this technological breakthrough will make us better protected from the loss of privacy? He was probably lying. The authors of the work from the University of Berkeley and the Technical University of Munich decided to test the “escape room” environment in VR to better understand the problems that can arise when using the metaverse.
The study was conducted on a small sample (30 people). First, diagrams were created to assess and analyze potential privacy threats. Of these, more than 25 examples of private data available to cybercriminals were identified – interestingly, some that would be difficult or impossible to obtain from traditional mobile or web applications. It sounds strange? Even a lot. It turns out that the metaversion not only seems to be stretched to the limit of “technology”, but there are many indications that it creates entirely new opportunities for criminals. But not only that – because it turns out that it’s also a real data mine for companies like Meta. I don’t know of any other company that has such a huge appetite for private information – Meta is definitely ahead of the curve here. No wonder Zuck goes so hard in the metaverse.
What’s worse – giants like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Meta do not hide the fact that, in their opinion, the metaverse is the next “big thing” (Bill Gates has a different opinion, but he is mainly concerned with life and philanthropy). That may not be the best thing for us – it’s enough that such things will simply benefit the praises of a whole new way of consuming content / communicating on the Internet.
Metaverse, or even less privacy
There are already technologies that make it possible, for example, to recognize our facial expressions and transfer them to the digital world. What if the same thing happens in the metaverse? If it is possible to monitor our facial expressions to check reactions to specific stimuli – perhaps it will be possible to judge what we really like without asking us? And what if it would be possible to check whether we agree with specific ideological issues, just on the basis of our gesticulation, analysis of the size of our pupils, physiological habits, among other things?
But that’s not all – in the metaverse it will be possible to judge how big the room you are in is. In addition, you can easily assess our height, arm length, the specification of the device we use (and thus also include it in the analysis of our wealth), reaction time, diseases, cognitive abilities, voice, physical condition and many, many other things. It is, after all, a mine of knowledge for algorithms that can target ads even better or … surround us with their products.
I’m not surprised that Meta wants to go. So far, the company has spent up to $12.5 billion on Reality Labs, of which it has pulled in… just $2.3 billion. Poorly. Even a lot. Especially since Zuck and company will want to pump this theme so hard to finally get what they need. Engage users and create a business opportunity – one that they can use to monetize their business. However, my hope is that this investment will be so impossibly misguided that we simply stop thinking about metaversions. I don’t feel it at all yet.
The authors of the study proposed a solution that may be good in the context of the metaverse collecting data about us. MetaGuard is supposed to be a plugin for Unity that puts “noise” in the telemetry data to prevent us from being profiled in any way. It’s a method of resistance, but…
… I’d rather have metaversions buried in the bad ideas dump. However, I have the sad impression that the train that would allow us to stop “progress” in this direction has long since departed. And we have to accept certain things.