Privacy protection is like a chest of precious fabrics. If you don’t know how to take care of it, you risk moths feasting on it. The thin line of privacy protection in the Metaverse between AI and the absence of legislative intervention. It seems almost impossible to believe that the digital world has managed to take such a space as to create an alternate reality – or, better, multiple angles of an alternate reality – where everyone can’t wait to grab their niche and defend it with nails and with teeth.
Without going too far in time, ten years ago, whoever played Second Life was a crackpot who didn’t know how to deal with real life and, for this reason, took refuge in the three-dimensionality of a platform made up of interactions with unknown players. The avatar was seen as someone’s desperate attempt to appear differently than they were due to their inability to accept themselves as mum had done and the time spent on virtual reality as a futile and meaningless investment.
Today, however, we talk about the Metaverse as the discovery of the century, and there is not a day in which a LinkedIn post or a Google article, or a YouTube video does not appear, all with a single goal: clickbait or, at least, the highest number of views possible. In short, the positions have reversed, and you’re unlucky if you don’t talk about the Metaverse.
In this furious race for the most like-looking piece, one of the aspects worth analyzing from my point of view concerns the fine line that exists in the Metaverse regarding the protection of privacy. What are the risks and limitations we can expect? Are there tools to protect it? What can the law do for anyone who ventures into this world that is so cool but where the law still needs to plant its flag?
The Problem With The “Game” Is The Game Itself
The problem with the Metaverse (or metaverses) is its appearance. The graphic representation resembles a game, conveying a feeling of leisure and tranquility to the user. This represents the first obstacle for anyone who approaches the virtual reality we are discussing: many may need to take it seriously and, with it, the following implications. After all, if you live the experience as a game, how do you realize what is happening and how it can effectively reflect on your legal sphere?
The first point to clarify for the user is precisely this: the Metaverse is not a platform dedicated to entertainment, where everything that happens remains confined to the game session. On the contrary, every action taken is likely to have legal repercussions, of which it is good to be aware before they occur. This is the case with privacy protection. The user should be adequately educated on the sensitive data they are likely to share in the Metaverse upon entering VR. The actions he will perform and the interactions he will have could lead to an involuntary provision of personal data. And the “game,” gentlemen, is not worth the candle.
The Alternatives For The Protection Of Privacy Right From The Start
Generally speaking, many would solve the problem of protecting user privacy with the familiar old story: acceptance of information on the processing of personal data. It is clear, however, that this is a convenient solution, far from providing those on the other side with what they need and, that is, effective awareness of the legal mechanisms underlying his actions in the Metaverse. More than information on processing personal data is required for two reasons. First, the habit of reading the very long papyri that anticipate using something has been lost for years: an app, a game, a program. Let’s go on trust.
There would therefore be the risk of knowingly exposing the user to the passive acceptance of consequences that he is unaware of in practice. This is why the hypothesis of setting up an anticipatory gameplay session of the mechanisms of the Metaverse was advanced. Thus, the user would be exposed to all the critical issues of the “game” and would be led to question himself from direct experience on the circumstances that endanger his privacy. A proposal, this, certainly more cumbersome but able to provide greater awareness to the user.
The Protection Of Privacy In The Metaverse Is A Priority
If a scale of priorities must be made, protecting privacy certainly deserves the podium. There are no compromises when it comes to the choices that affect the juridical sphere of the person. This is even more true – and demands a greater degree of attention – if we speak of a virtual reality where the law struggles to perform its function of protection precisely when there is most need for it. The massive use of AI, through viewers and sensory interfaces, creates a highly fertile ground for collecting data on the user who decides to move in the Metaverse.
Through artificial intelligence, preferences, data relating to our interests, biometric data, and even mental and emotional status information are assimilated. It is an invasion of the sensitive sphere of the person who needs an intervention by the legislator in pain of seeing the protection of privacy mistreated. The only way to achieve this is to precisely define how the current GDPR is applied in the Metaverse, indicating to users who wish to operate in the Metaverse the purposes of processing personal data. In the absence of this intervention, legal anarchy prevails.
Is There A Privacy Safeguard In The Metaverse?
That being the case, we have been speaking purely hypothetically, which is the tone into which the conversation will continue to settle. We must wait to do anything else before the legislature decides to take matters into its own hands. However, this does not mean that hoping for privacy protection in the Metaverse is utopian and that entering the Metaverse necessarily means losing control over your data.
First, the first piece of advice I can give you is to proceed with caution. However fascinating the news may be and however overwhelming the desire to jump into it, if you are not sure what you want to share and how to protect yourself, take the time to make your assessments and think about asking the opinion of an expert in legal protection in the virtual world. Thus, moving into the Metaverse will seem safer, and you will avoid making gross mistakes, always having your back covered by a lawyer who understands the mechanisms of digital reality.
Secondly, always ensure you have all the necessary information before making decisions, mainly if they concern your privacy. Thus, you can make informed choices, monitor the situation’s progress as you proceed, and stop when you feel you are no longer safe. Finally, always read and keep up with the news. The Metaverse is a constantly changing reality. Knowing its evolutions is the minimum to better understand it without giving up your rights if you are interested in conquering it and letting yourself be overwhelmed.