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June 13, 2022

The metaverse will drive data privacy concerns to the forefront

The metaverse is all the rage in the tech community, but it also poses some serious risks to people's privacy.

By Eric Johansson

The metaverse is creating a lot of buzz, but it’s also putting people’s privacy at risk. Rupantar Guha, principal thematic analyst at GlobalData, makes that stark warning in a new podcast from the research firm.

“The use of augmented reality, virtual reality and advertisement will be integral in the metaverse, which in turn will drive data privacy concerns to the fore,” he says. “As a result, regulators worldwide will force metaverse developers to address existing privacy issues associated with the underlining technologies. So that’s where we see issues arise.”

Metaverse developers are hardly unaware about the privacy concerns raised by the new digital paradigm. Indeed, there has already been reports of digital sexual assaults happening in the metaverse. Cybersecurity firms have warned about the risks the metaverse pose to customers. Meta itself has put $50m towards making the metaverse safe.

Metaverse is nothing new

The idea of the metaverse has been around for decades. The term itself was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash.

However, the concept really started to create a buzz after Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would become a metaverse company. He then doubled down on it by rebranding the company to Meta. Earlier this year, Meta rolled out new tools for metaverse creators to monetise their art.

Other companies like Disney, Microsoft and Epic Games have also announced plans to create metaverses of their own. Even the Chinese government has said that it’s not totally against the metaverse. Seoul is putting billions of dollars towards making South Korea a hotbed of metaverse development. It’s hardly a secret why so many companies are looking for a slice of the market.

“The metaverse could change how people shop, work, communicate and consume content in the future,” Guha explains.

In other words, there’s a massive business opportunity to be had by jumping on the gravy train. The metaverse will be a $13tn opportunity by 2030, according to Citi Global Insights. Part of the reason for that is because the metaverse doesn’t have strict universal definition yet.

“The metaverse means different things to different people depending on their business and the way they see it,” Guha says in the podcast. “It does not have a standard definition yet. So what this means is that most companies can make metaverse be what they want it to be.”

The metaverse is described by GlobalData researchers as a “virtual world where users share experiences and interact in real-time within simulated scenarios”.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.