NYU’s CBHR Signals Alarming Privacy Concerns in the Emerging Metaverse

While the advent of Metaverse is seen as a major step in the crypto frontier, a report released by NYU Stem Center for Business and Human Rights (CBHR) warned that these developments could lead to an unprecedented erosion of privacy and a rapid surge in physical aggression.
CBHR’s report recommends adopting solid steps by both the Web3 space and governments to avert a looming security and privacy crisis.
Unprecedented Erosion of Privacy
Metaverse, Extended Reality, or Spatial Computing is the digital iteration of the universe, where everyone can work, learn, and socialize in a 3D-rendered environment. This realm is noticing more developments, bringing a new level of immersion. It’s this immersion that CBHR thinks of as a potential threat to the privacy and safety of users.
Per the report, the Metaverse will use bodily data and spatial surroundings, which can reveal susceptible information about individuals, including their physical and mental states. The report reads;
“The types and volumes of data that XR devices can collect make them several orders of magnitude more invasive than traditional web-tracking and surveillance technologies.”
CBHR believes attackers and advertisers could exploit this information for commercial or political gain, eroding privacy. The report also underlines the potential for harmful behavior in virtual environments, including child abuse and sexual harassment.
The report also noted that using idealized avatars could easily alienate people from their bodies, leading to dissatisfaction with reality.
With several tech giants, including Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Sony, investing mainly in this space, CBHR stresses an urgency for proactive measures to protect human rights in the 3D immersive web.
Recommendations by the Report
CBHR recommended that the industry adopt several steps to avert a looming privacy and security crisis. One such recommendation is erasing user body-based data not needed for device functionality.
Secondly, CBHR advises the industry to offer more options for users to control their exposure to privacy and safety risks, incorporating privacy and safety best practices and investing in automation tools for proactive moderation in 3D virtual environments.
The report said in part:
“Given the real-time, ephemeral nature of interactions in VR, proactive detection is the only way to catch and address certain dangerous activities like child sexual exploitation and terrorist recruitment before they cause irreparable harm.”
This report further advised governments to develop comprehensive federal privacy legislation while strengthening their authority to oversee digital industries, including the Metaverse.
CBHR also notes that governments should empower federal agencies to research and investigate immersive technologies’ health consequences and environmental impacts. CBHR believes that industry and policymakers must take necessary steps to protect human rights.
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