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What is the future of your Privacy in METAverse

Privacy in metaverse fACEBOOK

Since the beginning of the Internet, cyberspace is constantly evolving, and we can expect it to continue transforming our lives in the future… but the future may be closer than you think.

With the emergence of different virtual environments like augmented reality, social networks, or virtual worlds, combined with budding technology that is finally catching up with our wildest sci-fi dreams, life as we know it is changing.

At this point in time, we are taking a big step into the mainstream metaverse, which some consider the successor of today’s internet.

The transition appears seamless, with new generations being the loneliest generations the world has seen, cocooned and isolated; we can experience the world at the leisure of our homes in vast virtual landscapes.

Sounds perfect, right?

What is Metaverse

Metaverse as a concept is a term with origins in sci-fi literature. The term was coined by Neal Stephenson, who introduced it to a broader audience in his ’92 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.

If you are not too keen on reading, I suggest you watch Speilbergs’ movie “Ready Player One” to get a glimpse of what the metaverse could be like.

Metaverse can be described as a blend of physical and digital– an immersive virtual experience that allows people to fully experience a different kind of reality.

As the metaverse expands and technology evolves, the idea is to offer users a hyper-real alternative world.

Navigating the Price of Technological Progress

Not everyone is eager to jump on the metaverse wagon at any cost. Every technological progress comes at a price, and although it seems inevitable, it should not be unconditional.

Metaverses will transform how we interact and socialize with each other, how we travel, shop, and consume information offering online activities we can only imagine.

With this interconnected universe, we can expect new challenges and risks, especially regarding our privacy. Metaverses will collect more information about us than any other platform ever before. Hence the consequences will be more severe.

These concerns seem to be magnified with one of the biggest privacy rule-breakers and biggest social networks stepping into the metaverse arena, right after their whistleblower scandal announcing a pompous name change from Facebook to Meta.

There are multiple metaverses, but only one META

From today’s perspective, it can be challenging to envision the metaverse as a part of our everyday lives.

However, there are multiple metaverses available right now, mainly in the gaming industry (Second Life, Fortnite, Sandbox), and if you are not a part of the gaming community, you are probably oblivious to them, but that doesn’t mean they are irrelevant.

With the advance of ultra-fast broadband speeds and technology that supports immersive experiences, we can expect them to creep on us slowly. Zuckerberg estimates it will only take five to ten years.

And we are not talking solely about the gaming industry. Metaverses will be present in all aspects of our lives, from our work, travel, socialization, shopping, learning, and more.

Therefore, the transformation of Facebook into Meta is a bit worrisome from a privacy perspective.

Out of the world’s current population of 7.9 billion people, 2.9 billion are monthly active Facebook users, and 3.51 billion use at least one of the company’s core products (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger) each month.

statistics on number of Facebook users from 2013 to 2021

As whistleblower Frances Haugenstated told the UK MP,  Mark Zuckerberg “has unilateral control over 3 billion people”, and that is completely true.

An announcement of transition to the world of virtual and augmented reality by a company with a substantial reach across the world’s population and notorious for putting profits before consumers at the expense of their privacy sounds like a plot from sci-fi movies ten or twenty years ago.

There is also another aspect of AR and VR; they could prove to be an addictive escape from reality as well as a necessity, and most individuals will not have the luxury of declining participation.

Can we trust Mark when it comes to METAverse?

Let’s face it, Facebook is such a childish name, reflecting its beginnings and not what Mark Zuckerberg wants it to be, as he explained;

“In our DNA, we build technology to bring people together. The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like social networking was when we got started.”

He has set out to build a new immersive, virtual world where you can do whatever you want, shop, play, create, interact, and… apparently, other things that we can’t even put in categories yet.

The chances are you will be part of this metaverse.

However, Facebook is struggling with privacy as is, and there is a high probability that this issue will translate into Meta and that the metaverse will be as privacy-flawed as Facebook.

Zuckerberg emphasized the importance of integrating interoperability, open standards, privacy, and safety into the metaverse from day one, but can we trust Mark? In other words, can we trust a company that continuously displays a lack of moral fiber.

Privacy Concern #1: Excessive data collection

We can expect companies in the metaverse to collect personal information for identification and advertisement and track it through multiple channels, like wearable devices, microphones, and heart and respiratory monitors, to an extent we have never experienced before.

This could easily lead to a world of no privacy.

Privacy Concern #2: Distorted reality

Along with the concerns about how private data will be collected and used, there is also a concern over how metaverses could provide an escape from reality.

According to Louis Rosenberg, it has the potential to alter our sense of reality, distorting how we interpret our direct daily experiences.

We highly recommend reading Rosenberg’s thoughts on security and privacy in future metaverses, where he explains how we live with countless layers of technology between us, and those who own those layers can manipulate us:

“Third-parties […] can inject their own content, possibly as a paid filter layer that only certain people can see. And they use that layer to tag individuals with bold flashing words like “Alcoholic” or “Immigrant” or “Atheist” or “Racist…”

In other words, they can strategically place you in a certain context and provide content only selected people can see to bend your reality, form your opinions, and amplify divisions between people.

Unplugging from the metaverse will not be as easy as removing AR glasses because we are too dependent on technology.

According to Elon Musk, we are already cyborgs, and leaving the metaverse would shut down important aspects of our lives, like our work or how we socialize.

Privacy Concern #3: Balancing Power, Privacy, and Autonomy

According to experts, metaverses will be a fertile ground for big technology firms to gain more power and exploit market advantages and mechanisms such as artificial intelligence (AI) in ways that seem likely to further erode their users’ privacy and autonomy.

Privacy in the metaverse needs to be carefully considered and protected both by users and companies that should start implementing privacy by design when developing technology that we are so dependent on.

Change the way you think about your privacy

When engaging in a simple conversation about privacy just a couple of years ago, the most common reply to why people are not more active regarding their privacy was that they have nothing to hide.

And that might be correct. Most people probably have nothing to hide- but the problem is the world might change. In fact, it is already changing.

Technology has the potential of creating a massive appeal towards virtual,  making the metaverse experience fully accessible to everyone.  As a result, more users will be plugging in, and more data will be circulating through Metaverse’s bloodstream.

The basic presumption that we have nothing to hide should be abandoned and replaced with “we have something to protect”– and Metaverses could be the first true battlefield that will test how willing we are to fight for our privacy.

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