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 buying 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.
An Erosion of Anonymity
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. yesyou’re still alive but can’t access any of the people, places, resources, or tools you used to have 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.
Decrease in rights
There is already a legal project for this scenario. The Patriot Act, passed after 9/11, basically gave the government free rein to effectively do whatever it wants, without due process. Under the Patriot Act, if the federal government, through the CIA, FBI, or any of their branches, files a surveillance request with Google, Facebook, or Apple for all activity by a user based in the United States States, the law does not allow the company to even notify that person who is under surveillance. There are massive penalties for siding with the user in any aspect.
We give more and more importance to our digital life without being clear about our rights in this new world. We have already placed too much trust in entities that have a proven track record of abusing that trust and failing to protect the information provided to them. We have bought these systems, and we will become digital servants where we will exist at the convenience of the platform provider. We are alone, without any rights in the digital field.
If we get upset, we can easily be silenced and removed from the platform. That makes us hope for the best so as not to cross an invisible line. Unfortunately, in the current climate, censorship and platform removals have become prevalent, hitting people who weren’t breaking any laws, but simply had an opinion that wasn’t in line with the majority—such as arguing on against mask mandates, discuss alternative COVID medications, or even study Facebook disinformation.
As a last resort, the only way to guarantee our safety is that we all take our own responsibility. After all, there’s always the possibility of someone breaking into your home, so keep your doors locked and take the extra step of locking the deadbolt. Currently, there are alternatives to conventional platforms that are decentralized, open source, and committed to user privacy. Hopefully, instead of relying on the same big tech platforms as in the Web2 era, we’ll focus on building the metaverse from the ground up so that users are truly in control of their digital lives.
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The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Colin Pape He is an entrepreneur and founder of Presearch, a private, decentralized search engine with 2.2 million users. He is also the founder of ShopCity.com, a community commerce platform that connects local businesses and consumers.
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