Digital platforms are driven by data that drives monetization strategies. Companies have valued data long before digital, but these days the amount and granularity of data is unprecedented. Combine this with increasingly lower cost computing costs and improving algorithms and we’re in deeply uncharted waters.
It has been said that in a world with “free” apps and technologies (e.g. Google search, Facebook, etc), the user is the product. Meaning the data the companies collect – what you click, how long you look at things, what you type – is worth a lot of money to advertisers. And potentially governments. And certainly to criminals.
Those of us who have worked in/around VR for some time have warned about privacy issues. While work moved forward on computer vision, understanding non-verbal cues, gesture recognition, etc, to make better training tools (among other things), some of us knew these would be used to harvest user data. And really quite deep data – not just what you type or say, but what you feel and eventually what you think. The line is quite blurred. So no surprise that Meta’s recent announcement has raised some eyebrows in the privacy world.
The metaverse is in full hype mode, though parts of it already exist (e.g. the current internet). But as we move more immersive, things will get increasingly intrusive, blurry, and downright weird. More reason for working through the implications *now* rather than waiting for the inevitable problems to pop up.