Metaverse’s Moral Code regarding Privacy, Ownership and Control

  • Metaverse provides users with endless possibilities in the virtual world, along with some threats in the real world. 
  • It raises issues over privacy, ownership and control. 

Metaverse emerged as the next frontier of humankind. A virtual environment simulating reality and beyond provide an immersive experience and a way to see the world with new lenses. Despite all the positives, it presents a moral predicament concerning privacy, ownership and control. 

Privacy concerns are greatly acknowledged these days, and the metaverse has intensified the controversy. A genuine question arises: Who has access to private data, and how metaverse uses this personal information? Although there is no clear answer to the above question, the metaverse strongly advocates data privacy. 

Businesses and entities operating in the metaverse might try to congregate personal data provided by their users. Again begging the question of how that information will be used and who has access to it. Is it the company, or are they selling data to others like Facebook was accused of doing some time ago? 

Metaverse does not provide complete control to users regarding their data; this opens the possibility that data may be abused. Web2 uses traditional methods to track and monitor users’ activities and provide corresponding responses. Since this operates on Web3, there is limited information about who can track and how the activities would be tracked, and more importantly, where the data is. 

Metaverse is not immune to cyberattacks that can cause personal and sensitive data to be lost or stolen. People generally use aliases while in the metaverse, like in the movie Ready Player One; when the villain finds the protagonist’s real identity, he tries to kill him in the real world to defeat his avatar in the Oasis. 

The blazing question is, who owns digital assets and real estate in the virtual world? Can the owner practice basic rights? These challenges need to be answered along with rights over intellectual property, as it provides an opportunity to create and distribute a wide array of digital art, virtual clothing, assets, etc. It’s difficult to determine who owns their rights and how to protect them if required. 

In the case of virtual property, owners are given rights to their virtual property, but the limit of purchasing, selling and control is a debatable topic. Be it virtual or intellectual property, if anyone tries to steal or get unauthorized access, where could the victim go to complain, who has jurisdiction over the matter? Then there are contracts and obligations enforced between people for both sale and transfer of goods; this is also a puzzling scene. 

There is a hierarchy of courts that can provide justice, but who is the governing authority there? Who can implement regulations, guarantee their abidance, and ensure impartial judgment? Its governance and administration are also not clear. 

A wide variety of digital content is created, consumed and distributed across the metaverse daily. This attracts concerns regarding the regulations required, to what extent these can be implemented, and what can be shown and what cannot. Is there censorship or a requirement for such a system? 

Metaverse also includes online marketplaces and digital currencies, increasing the complexity of its economic systems. Are these facilities reliable and just for such complex systems? What are the roles of the private and public sectors regarding regulation and administration? 

Using virtual environments for political expression and activism is easier and more effective. There shall be a limit to which these can be used for political regulations and control, although it hampers the integrity of the first amendment. 

Being vigilant about the data shared online and in virtual environments, using stronger passwords or multi-stage authentication systems. Cautious of malicious software and phishing cons, timely rechecking of security settings of the account. Knowing all the terms, conditions and guidelines of each virtual environment. Most importantly, be mindful and alert regarding your surroundings, whether real or virtual. 

Nancy J. Allen
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