The Metaverse is not coming, it is already here. And that’s why we looked at its impact on our privacy and how decentralization could help.
Unlike some of my peers in the tech space, I don’t see the metaverse as a virtual world where we work, socialize, and shop. Rather, I see it as a point in time, reached in 2020 and this year due to the global pandemic, when the digital world became as important as the physical world. It is a departure from the idea that physical reality is superior and preferable to digital reality.
Work for many has become a series of Zoom meetings, people shopping for virtual real estate, and kids spending time with their friends on Fortnite and Roblox. Facebook’s rebranding to Meta indicates that there is no going back to the way things were before, as a critical mass of people have realized the benefits of operating within a digital reality.
And with this clash of realities comes the realization that the pockets of privacy we have enjoyed could soon morph into a dystopian nightmare in which we may be arbitrarily barred from the virtual environments in which we live, work and play.
As digital resources become more and more critical to us, they become more closely linked. While we’re not yet at a point where everything is integrated into one account, we can see where things are headed based on what’s already happened, specifically when it comes to using Facebook and Google accounts as a gateway. entry to many different platforms.
Many of today’s concerns about digital privacy — such as identity theft, personal information theft, and targeted ads — stem from the same breakthrough that made Facebook a success, which was to give people an incentive enough to register with your real name. Before Facebook, most people used pseudonyms on the Internet and didn’t feel comfortable sharing so much personal information openly. They were anonymous and acted in different forums. With Facebook having people’s names, connecting payment services including Apple Pay and Google Pay, along with Amazon shopping profiles, suddenly most Internet users have a person online. showing how they interact in the digital realm. Connecting all these services already has significant privacy implications, as people’s data is vulnerable to hacking or abuse.
As we move most of our lives into the digital realm, the threats of compromised data and being closely tracked, among others, become more acute. Borrowing a term from the world of cryptocurrencies: it is almost like putting your whole life in a hot store, where it is always accessible and vulnerable to bad actors, as opposed to cold storage, where only you control the keys to your assets.
This change prepares us for a future where whoever controls access to what becomes the master profile of the metaverse can enforce the law against the provider of that account. There may be situations where if a person does not comply with the mandates or regulations in place, that person may find that the platform is taken away from them, which, in this case, would cut off the only critical path in which we work and socialize. This person would become a digital outcast.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of his company, people commented that when you die in the metaverse, you «die» in real life. It’s a scary idea. You are still alive but cannot access any of the people, places, resources, or tools that you previously had access to. Something like this was not possible before in physical life. Now it can happen quite easily, especially since there is not much clarity about what our rights are and what legal process is required in the digital realm.