The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating

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The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg giving the metaverse keynoteFacebook
  • With talk swirling about the metaverse comes the question of how to regulate it.
  • Tech firms will gain even more data on users, giving algorithms and advertising partners valuable data.
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The metaverse is supposedly coming, which means it may need the same thing (some say) as social media: regulation.

That's especially pressing since problems created by social media will likely be amplified in this futuristic virtual landscape — and could drum up issues that are even more monumental if left unchecked.

Without clear policies in this new space, you won't be able to tell the difference because content that's authentic and what's paid placement injected into your field of view, Louis Rosenberg — a 30-year veteran of AR development and the CEO of Unanimous AI — told Insider.

"It should be highlighted when something in our world is not authentic but is a paid product placement or simulated spokesperson," Rosenberg said. "Otherwise we will be in a world where third parties are pulling the strings changing things behind the scenes to specifically influence each of us in a very targeted way."

Here's how lawmakers and enforcers could regulate the metaverse to better protect consumers:

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Restrict how much companies can monitor you in the virtual landscape

The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating
A person wears VR goggles.Getty Images

The metaverse, not unlike today's internet, will likely be controlled by a handful of powerful corporations, chiefly Google, Facebook, Apple, and the like. You'll be either wearing AR glasses as you walk around the real world or headsets that will entirely immerse you in the metaverse while you sit comfortably on the couch.

Via those products, the companies will be able to watch what you look at it, which is why Rosenberg said companies should be required to inform you if they assess exactly where you're looking in the metaverse.

As Rosenberg recently wrote for Venturebeat, the software providers "should not be allowed to store this data for more than the short periods of time required to mediate whatever experience is being simulated. That will reduce the degree to which they can characterize our behaviors over time."

Limit what exactly big tech giants can track about you

The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating
Facebook's Ray-Ban "Stories" smart glassesFacebook

Given the immersive nature of the AR and VR technologies that will be used in the metaverse, companies could be able to look at your blood pressure, breathing rates, and other health aspects.

A company could examine your heart rate, for example, which may rise when you see something in the metaverse that excites you.

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As on social media, companies could then take that data and sell it to advertisers, who could use your own personal health information to target ads toward you. That data could also inform the companies' algorithms to keep you on their platform longer.

Restrict how much third parties can put content in front of us

The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating
A man wears VR goggles.Getty Images

Third parties will be able to much more naturally drive content in front of users in the metaverse. That could look like a person — who's not even real — standing on the sidewalk holding a certain brand's product.

Or perhaps a virtual person starts up a casual conversation with you in line for coffee at a virtual shop, while slyly sneaking in mention of whatever an advertiser has paid them to try and sell to you. That's partly why experts previously told Insider that the metaverse could fracture reality.

"In the metaverse, you may not be able to distinguish between authentic content you came upon in the world, augmented or virtual, and paid content that was injected specifically for you, personally targeted by AI algorithm," Rosenberg told Insider. "So restricting this is important."

Examine if Section 230 can apply to the metaverse

The metaverse could let Silicon Valley track your facial expressions, blood pressure, and your breathing rates — showing exactly why our internet laws need updating
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has cautioned against stripping down Section 230.The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

The internet law has given internet platforms a shield from being liable for content that people post. But as Dov Greenbaum — a law professor at Israel-based IDC Herzliya — recently wrote, it might not apply to this new virtual space.

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"If the Metaverse fell outside the scope of Section 230, it would force Congress to enact a whole new law better tailored to the realities of emerging online interactions," Greenbaum wrote in the tech news site, CTech.

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