The metaverse has become one of the biggest focuses of technology for the next decade. Just look at Facebook, which was renamed Meta last year as part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of immersive technology.
But the rise of the metaverse has also coincided with an increased focus on consumer privacy. Users and lawmakers are more concerned about how their data is used, tracked and sold. Allowing people to work, play and live in a virtual world that users enter through some sort of headset is likely to be a disaster when it comes to data collection, argues attorney Jay Edelson, who has filed previous privacy lawsuits against Google and Facebook.
Headset devices can record things like a person’s movements, facial features, blinking, environment, and their activities when in the metaverse. “The metaverse is really dangerous for privacy because if the idea is that we’re going to wear things that track everything from our heartbeat to where we’re going and who we’re talking to, it’s just gold for data companies,” Edelson said. the public at the londonbusinessblog.com Innovation Festival on Thursday.
That’s where the importance of privacy laws comes in, he said. Data privacy advocates are urging companies to share their data collection practices with consumers because they want to or because they are required by law.
“The most important thing is that companies talk about it publicly and disclose what they collect,” Edelson said. “I don’t want to sue anyone. I’d rather they just change their behavior. If there’s a reason you don’t want to say it in your contracts or on stage or anywhere else, maybe it’s because they’re things you shouldn’t be doing. That’s an important thing with the metaverse.”
These are still the early days of the metaverse. The ability to move seamlessly from the digital world to the physical world is still unrealized. But it’s clear that many believe this is one of the biggest growth opportunities in the coming decade.
In just the first five months of 2022, corporations, venture capital and private equity firms have invested more than $120 billion in the metaverse, according to a report from McKinsey & Company. That is more than double what was invested in all of 2021. The investments have good reason: McKinsey expects the metaverse to generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030.
“It’s fine to innovate. It’s okay to do cool stuff,” Edelson said, “but you have to tell people what you’re actually collecting, who you’re giving it to, and what’s going to happen with the data. For me, it’s about disclosures and consent.”