Consumers will spend a major amount of their life in virtual and augmented environments in the coming years. This metaverse migration might be a magical change, expanding what it means to be human. Alternatively, it could take a truly authoritarian turn, giving corporations unparalleled sway over humans.

The lack of regulatory safeguards is gravely concerned. This is because providers of the metaverse will have unheard-of capacity to profile and sway their users. While users are aware that social media platforms track where they click and who their friends are, metaverse platforms (virtual and augmented) will have considerably more in-depth capabilities, tracking users’ whereabouts, activities, relationships, and even how long they keep their gaze fixed. Platforms will also be able to monitor users’ vital signs, posture, stride, facial expressions, and vocal nuances.

Invasive surveillance is a privacy concern, but the threats double when we consider that targeted advertising in the metaverse will shift from flat media to immersive experiences that will eventually be indistinguishable from genuine encounters.

For these reasons, it’s essential that decision-makers take into account the enormous influence that metaverse platforms may have over society and endeavor to establish a set of fundamental “immersive rights.” Although many safeguards are required, these three fundamental protections are crucial as a starting point:

The right to experiential authenticity

The real and digital worlds are also filled with promotional content, yet most adults can quickly spot commercials. This enables people to evaluate the information with a healthy dose of scepticism and to view the content in the appropriate context—as paid messaging. In the metaverse, marketers could undermine the capacity for contextualizing messaging by quietly changing the environment in which we live and introducing targeted promotional events that are indistinguishable from real-world interactions.

Regulations should, at the very least, guarantee the fundamental right to true immersive experiences. This could be accomplished by requiring promotional items and promotional individuals to be physically and acoustically unique in order for consumers to notice them in the appropriate context. This would prevent customers from mistaking promotionally changed experiences for genuine ones.

The right to emotional privacy

We humans developed the ability to express our emotions through our faces, speech, posture, and gestures. It is a fundamental mode of communication that supplements verbal communication. Machine learning has recently enabled software to recognize human emotions in real time from faces, speech, and posture, as well as vital signs like breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. While technology allows computers to communicate nonverbally with humans, it can quickly cross the line into predatory invasions of privacy. This is because computers can identify emotions from cues that humans cannot see.

Consumers should, at the very least, have the right not to be emotionally appraised at levels that exceed human capabilities. This includes prohibiting the use of vital indicators and micro expressions. Furthermore, regulators should consider prohibiting emotional analysis for advertising purposes.

The right to behavioral privacy

Tracking location, posture, gait, and line-of-sight is required in both virtual and augmented environments to replicate immersive experiences. While this is a lot of information, it is only needed in real time. There is no need to keep this information for an extended period of time. This is significant because recorded behavioral data can be utilized to generate detailed behavioral profiles that document users’ daily actions in minute detail. The storing of immersive data over time should be prohibited by policymakers in order to stop platforms from creating behavioral profiles.

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