Tech giant Meta is working on body pose tracking technology, clothing that detects movement, and in-home sensor devices to enhance the metaverse experience – but has yet to outline any details of data privacy and user safety.
As the digital and physical world have become increasingly interwoven, we’ve become accustomed to having our everyday habits tracked, collected, and stored as data by the world’s biggest tech companies.
We wear watches that detect our heartrates, use our phones to make payments on the go, and have a location tracker right in our pockets at pretty much any given time. We’re also all in agreement that our phones are constantly listening to us, right?
While this may have seemed creepy at first, it doesn’t seem to bother us anymore. Actually, returning to a life without these helpful bits of technology might seem unfathomable for a wide majority.
But the metaverse, still in its novel and not quite mainstream stage, continues to cause a stir amongst those concerned with personal privacy and data collection. Particularly because Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is the company driving the metaverse forward – and fast.
Following its name change, Meta began pioneering the development of the metaverse, wasting no time with patenting a bunch of new technology to make the platform feel as real as possible. Think virtual reality and augmented reality, combined, and on steroids.
In the last few months, Meta has submitted hundreds of new patents for approval by the United States government. From gloves that stimulate touch to hyper-real avatars and body-mapping clothing, Meta is covering all the equipment bases to shape itself into a one-stop-shop for all things metaverse related.
And while this might sound enticing to some, Business Insider has reported that none of the patents included any information about data privacy or user safety.
Meta was sure to include a breadth of detail about the high levels of built-in advertising included in the metaverse, however.
This has raised the eyebrows of many tech professionals, who have concerns about what Meta intends to do with the vast amount of data they will inevitably gather and later add to their already unfathomably enormous data stores.
Georgetown Professor Jeanine Turner pointed out that Meta’s current data access will appear miniscule compared to the volume they will have once these new technologies find their way into millions of homes around the world.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Facebook – sorry, Meta – has faced several serious allegations of putting profit before user safety.
In particular, they’ve been accused of implementing shifty algorithms which promote extreme content and collecting vast amounts of personal data from those with accounts on the platform.
Fathoming why anyone would need or want so much information about regular people might’ve once been difficult. But acknowledging that our data is a product and our participation in the platform is key to make Meta some big dollars, it’s pretty easy to see the bigger picture.
We already have seen how social media platforms have had our modern society in a chokehold for the last decade. Just like the advert-ridden, digital slot machine that is Instagram, the metaverse is bound to become yet another place for companies to sell us products we don’t really need.
On this note, notorious Facebook whistle blower, Frances Haugen, warned that the company’s involvement with the metaverse would undoubtedly give it another monopoly within the online sphere.
So what can we do? We could all refuse to use it, but frankly it’s already too late for that. Bill Gates has gone as far as predicting that the metaverse will be part of our workplaces in the next three years.
All things considered I’m not completely sold on the concept of the metaverse. But after observing how smart home devices and other similar technologies have become embedded into every facet of the 21st century human experience – I can’t honestly say I never will be.
I’m Jessica (She/Her), a writer at Thred. I moved to London to complete a master’s degree in Media and Communications after spending two years working in fashion PR in Amsterdam. Follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and drop me some ideas/feedback via email.
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