Is There Room for Rights in the Metaverse ?, IT News, ET CIO

By Sonia Elks

From virtual goods to AI-powered avatars that can be rented by businesses, a growing digital world is pushing property and privacy rights into uncharted territory.

Facebook’s recent announcement that it is investing heavily in the so-called metaverse – a virtual environment where people can meet, play and collaborate – is fueling the debate on how to protect fundamental rights as more and more people activities move online.

“What Facebook and, in all fairness, all businesses want is to keep (people) on the platform for as long as possible so that they can learn things about you,” said Sandra Wachter, professor. Fellow at the University’s Oxford Internet Institute. from Oxford.

“(The metaverse) will only exacerbate the problems we already have,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Facebook and its parent company Meta last month unveiled plans to create 10,000 jobs to build the Metaverse, saying the plan involved spending $ 50 million to ensure the virtual world included guarantees of privacy, diversity and privacy. user safety.

The term “metaverse” has been used to describe a range of shared spaces accessible via the internet – from fully immersive virtual reality (VR) spaces to augmented reality accessible through devices such as smart glasses.

Liri, a 23-year-old Israeli student, said she was intrigued when she learned she could sell the rights to her image to a Tel Aviv-based company using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to create digital characters or avatars.

Characters can be “hired” from companies and programmed to voice scripts.

“It’s really a little strange to think that my face can appear in videos or advertisements for different companies,” said Liri, who was only identified by first name, in a statement provided by the company. avatar of IA Hour One.

“But it’s also very exciting,” she said.


The emerging virtual economy is already home to some 2.5 billion people and generates billions of dollars each year, according to a report by market research firm L’Atelier.

This includes virtual props such as digital outfits and hairstyles for avatars, as well as cutting edge bloggers on AI-chatbot technology and social media who make a living from the click-through ad revenue they generate.

“We definitely see the world becoming more virtual, (we’re going to) increasingly live in a metaverse,” said Natalie Monbiot, chief strategy officer at Hour One.

Fredrik Hellberg, co-founder of digital architecture studio Space Popular, said virtual reality spaces can “bring people together” even when they are physically far apart.

But he added that the potential pitfalls of the metaverse include the risks to user privacy and the energy cost of processing ever-increasing amounts of data.

“That’s why the audience needs to be part of the conversation and have their say… otherwise technology becomes a part of your life without you ever having made that choice,” he said.

Workplaces are also grappling with questions about the opportunities and risks posed by the metaverse, said Khurshid Anis, a New York-based human resources consultant.

“We will have to rewrite entire contracts and employment policies, rather than trying to change the existing rules, because these are totally different worlds,” she said.


The rise of the metaverse also presents a tangle of legal and regulatory issues to resolve, such as whether people should be notified when dealing with a bot and which agencies should be responsible for regulating virtual spaces.

Amid an explosion in crypto art and other virtual assets sold via NFT tokens, questions are also being raised about property rights.

NFTs have been touted as easily tradable assets, backed by permanent proof of ownership on digital blockchain records.

But buyers can get less than they think, said Sophie Goossens, partner at Reed Smith law firm, specializing in media and technology.

In most cases, an NFT does not assign all of the intellectual property rights to a digital creation, but rather offers some form of service contract or license to use it – less than the property rights to an object. physical equivalent, she said.

It is also unclear whether digital creations generated using AI should enjoy the same property rights as those created by humans, she said, as companies seek to create virtual worlds. exclusive to be exploited for profit.

“You will be on borrowed land all the time,” she said of the Metaverse.

“If you can generate a whole virtual environment using AI, should it be everyone’s business?” … Will it remain a public domain in the Metaverse? “

However, some of the thorniest issues around the metaverse revolve around user personal data and privacy rights.

Putting more of ourselves into digital worlds will offer a wealth of new data that can be captured, saved and sold.

Figuring out which country the laws apply in digital spaces could be difficult, and managing data consents could quickly become onerous as users move through complex worlds involving multiple organizations, lawyers for Reed Smith said.

The data can also be combined and analyzed to infer and sell personal details that users have never agreed to share – from their sexuality to their politics or state of health, Wachter added.

“Your data is an extension of your personality, of your soul, of who you really are,” she said.

Wachter said that while Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recognizes data rights – the huge European market meaning that it effectively acts as a global standard, it is not clear whether the law extends to such “inferred” data.

She urged courts and lawmakers to ensure the protection of inferred data, calling on regulators to limit the extent to which companies interpret user data for business purposes – something many people ignore.

“They think it’s a practical thing that they have the opportunity to talk to their friends and family for free,” she said.

“The data collection is just running in the background. And you don’t really know you’re revealing your journal to the world.”

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