What is the metaverse and what implications could there be from a privacy perspective?
Defining the metaverse takes us right to the heart of the problem – we simply cannot envisage what a working metaverse may turn out to be. Some predict this will be a kind of Virtual Reality driven by an ‘alternate reality’, where people can get together using online “personas” in a kind of world-wide video game. The truth is that any current definition of the metaverse is only likely to be a massive oversimplification. Today we don’t really know what the metaverse is, except as a term that is being hyped to describe for the future of digital interaction.
A significant number of organisations of all shapes and sizes are starting to seriously consider how this future might work. Familiar names such as Meta (previously known as Facebook) and Google are leading on the metaverse initiatives, and it is likely that how we work as well as play will become a commercial opportunity for such firms to embrace. So, we would appear to be at a juncture where we have organisations poised for a future “gold rush” into this space – but not quite knowing what to do or where to go, as there is a lack of real definition and regulation.
We can anticipate that any kind of digital interaction between individuals (such as the metaverse is likely to require) will be facilitated by the use of data, and there will also be an opportunity for such interactions to be recorded (or “tracked”). It’s also likely that much of this data may fall into the definition of “personal” – meaning that much of the processing may fall into the scope of existing privacy laws, however, existing privacy rules, structures or standards will not have been designed with this future in mind – and may not provide the degree of control required to protect the rights of individuals. All-in-all the potential remains for another data “wild west” .
Regulation and standardisation will continue to evolve, but it will always follow innovation and commercial exploitation. Ideally, a core of those responsible for providing the access and technology necessary for the internet to exist, should work closely with worldwide governments to develop a set of principles and standards to form the shape of the future “metaverse”.
By Peter Galdies, Founder and Senior Consultant of DQM GRC.