“In the metaverse, there is a risk of complete loss of privacy”

One possible business model is what might be called a virtual future of surveillance capitalism. It is no longer just about collecting data related to our click behavior, but biometric data: pupil movements, but also heart rate or body temperature when the VR headset is paired with a smartwatch. It may happen that the data is transmitted to data brokers, that is to say resellers of information, at the time it is collected. This also seems to be Facebook’s model: the latest VR glasses the group has released have a number of features that can be used to track gestures and facial expressions, for example. If we find no means of regulation here, a completely opaque form of microtargeting could appear. There is a risk of complete loss of privacy.

You have to explain this.

We are familiar with personalized advertising from Facebook, where you see an ad in the News Feed. The virtual counterpart could be simulated interactions: I walk around with my avatar and see two people standing next to a car on the side of the road. A person says, “Hey, the car is really interesting.” The other person replies: “Yes, I just bought it, I can totally recommend it.” This could be a form of micro-targeting for consumer users at this point is not more understandable. We need to think about whether to push for a blanket ban on data processing: a ban on biometric targeting and trade with that data. Facebook says this data needs to be evaluated to enable real-time calculation of avatars and to make characters’ facial expressions as realistic as possible. But at the end of the day, it’s all about publicity.

A ban is a strong intervention in the market. Many users consciously agree that their data may be used…

I believe there could be other issues with this that aren’t just related to the advertising model. The greatest danger lies in political manipulation: that I am not addressed by a company but by a party. It seems to me that the authorities have become much more vigilant after the data scandal involving the analysis company Cambridge Analytica. At that time, the regulatory authorities reacted very late. By comparison, I feel like Big Tech’s critical consciousness is now much more pronounced – at least that gives us some hope.

Do you think today’s players will still be dominant in five to ten years? The search for keywords, for example, must be organized quite differently in 3D worlds, because it is no longer a question of indexing links, but of cataloging virtual objects.

There are already voice searches such as smart home assistants that could just be transferred to the metaverse. It would of course be interesting if there were a natural evolution of the platforms. For example, MySpace, one of the first social networks, has now disappeared from the scene. However, this should not be relied upon, because looking at Facebook and Meta, one can see that this group is very adaptive and repeatedly manages to establish itself in the market through acquisitions of competitors – even if the US consumer protection authority FTC is now stronger here regulated. Zuckerberg has put it all on one card with the Metaverse. But it will be a big challenge. Its “Horizon Worlds” proto-metaverse so far only has 300,000 monthly active users. Although we can now speak of a nascent “post-solutionist” era, in which belief in tech companies solving global problems is fading, in the end, leading tech companies will likely be able to adapt. to the virtual environment.

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