Skeptics in the metaverse fear the prospect of unprotected data and large-scale user surveillance on a scale never seen before. Ironically, the biggest company powering the Metaverse, Meta (formerly known as Facebook), has faced its fair share of privacy scandals in the current iteration of the Internet, culminating in Mark Zuckerberg being infamously brought before Congress from the United States. United States to answer for Facebook’s failure to combat hate speech and data privacy violations.
In a US Senate committee hearing, whistleblower Frances Haugen accused Meta of prioritizing “profits over the well-being of children and all users” when it came to creating manipulative algorithms that leverage behavioral data to persuade users to spend more time on the platform.
The controversy hasn’t weakened Facebook’s popularity, but the public anti-surveillance zeitgeist offers lessons for Metaverse developers looking to fix many of Web2’s problems. The nascent space can implement systems that give users full transparency into how the systems collect and use user data, as well as what data is collected. By emphasizing privacy and assuring users that their data will not be used against them, smaller Metaverse companies gain a unique selling point and even advantage over any Big Tech company looking to get into the Metaverse, including Meta.
Related: A letter to Zuckerberg: The Metaverse is not what you think it is
Data privacy issues in the metaverse
The avatars of the metaverse are a conglomerate of all issues related to privacy in the digital realm. As a user’s gateway to all Metaverse interactions, they can also offer platforms a wealth of personal data to collect, especially if their tech stack involves biometrics, such as tracking users’ facial features and expressions. for the avatar’s own gestures.
The risk of someone hacking biometric data is much scarier than hacking shopping preferences. Biometrics are often used as an added security precaution, such as when you authorize payment on your phone using your fingerprint. Imagine someone stealing your fingerprints and depleting your card with a bunch of transfers. Such breaches are not unheard of: in 2019, hackers obtained the biometric data of 28 million people.
It’s scary to think about what traditional digital marketing would look like in the Metaverse. Have you ever shopped for shoes online and suddenly noticed that your Facebook is full of ads for similar shoes? That’s the result of advertisers using cookies and your IP address to personalize their ads. Imagine if advertisers had access not only to your shopping preferences, but also to your biological data. Marketers would pay a lot for a variety of their facial expressions captured during a visit to a Metaverse mall, and Big Tech knows this all too well.
Related: Browser cookies are not consent: the new path to privacy after EU data regulation fails
And this is exactly where the smaller Metaverse developers have an advantage over large corporations like Meta. Data privacy will be a huge concern for anyone looking to join the Metaverse, and when faced with Meta, with its history of data misuse, newer developers need to emphasize privacy as their main selling point. But how?
Ensuring the privacy of vulnerable consumers
The Metaverse is our chance to build a better, more private digital reality that protects people from government and corporate misuse. As such, developers should approach building the Metaverse architecture with that in mind. In that architecture there needs to be clear communication with users regarding data policies and preferences, making sure they only share their data when they really want to rather than when misled via disclaimers buried in pages of legal jargon. .
Just as many websites today have more effective controls that allow users to opt out of data sharing, Metaverse projects must have clear ways for users to protect their data, whether it’s biometric or not. And the key is to emphasize those elements from the beginning.
Biometric data, whether it’s facial tracking for avatar gestures or fingerprints used as the basis for a cryptographic key pair, needs special protections. Access to such data is not the same as Meta knowing someone’s food preferences: it is literally the key to everyone’s biological information. To protect this information in the Metaverse, developers must standardize the use of digital biometric-based IDs with blockchain technology. Biometric data can function as a cryptographic basis to generate a pair of public and private keys. These keys would function as proof of identity on a network, allowing their holders to log out and receive transactions. Enabling a digital ID rooted in a key pair creates a more secure and protected identity that is nearly impossible to hack.
Another key way to protect consumers is to ensure that their data is encrypted and anonymised. Don’t cut corners. Be sure to effectively communicate to customers that their privacy is your number one priority and that they are in control of what is shared. The metaverse can be a scary place for users if they don’t know what their data is being used for.
They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for the developers of the Metaverse, that first step will be crucial. For the Metaverse to reach the general public, people must feel comfortable sharing their data. The privacy issue is no joke for Metaverse users, and Metaverse developers need to keep this in mind in order to get an edge over big companies and more importantly, shape the Internet of the future. The state of everyone’s privacy depends on it.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should do their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Daniel Marinelli is the CEO and founder of DTSocialize Holding. He previously worked as a consultant and auditor, and is also a member of the Italian National Council for Economy and Labor and is registered with the National Tax Institute. In 2010, Daniele started researching digital assets and the technologies behind them. Soon after, he decided to create an ecosystem where members of the DT community can access modern financial services, interact, socialize, shop and earn using a single digital ID while protecting their privacy.