Big tech shows no desire to stop trying to make the metaverse happen, whether we like it or not. Which particular version it will win remains to be seen, and when (the arrival of virtual and augmented reality for the masses is now about five years away, now about three decades).
But when and however it comes, it’s hard to see how the metaverse will overcome the privacy and security issues we’ve been dealing with for far too long in our existing technology.
Chances are it will make them all much worse.
Never forget that a significant part – probably even the majority – of the modern web is supported by surveillance capitalism. That is, being able to observe and analyze us, gather information about who we are and what we like, is fundamental to the business model of almost all major technology companies.
Another problem that won’t go away: Tech companies continue to push out buggy software that developers haven’t had time to properly secure, because getting to market first is far more important than protecting their customers’ data and privacy . And as a result, privacy breaches are so common that most consumers are so jaded that they just shrug and continue doing business with the company that was breached this time around.
Meanwhile, scammers keep improving their game. Whether dealing with phishing or ransomware or data theft, most police will not understand the crime and even if they do, the scammers will either disappear to another jurisdiction or even turn out to be working for a government; hard to chase anyway.
The metaverse threatens to exacerbate all of these problems.
If you thought big tech knew a lot about you simply based on the websites you visit or the links you click, imagine how much they will know about you once they can capture literally everything you look at, and for how long . And if knowing big tech is bad enough, it will be even worse when that data inevitably leaks out.
If you thought phishing scams were bad now, thanks to carefully scripted emails or even deep fake audio or video, get ready for your CEO to appear in a virtual work and ask you to transfer millions to a random bank account.
Or as Charlie Bell, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management noted in a recent blog post, “The Internet’s Troubles, Yesterday and Today: Identity Impersonation, Credential Stealing, Social Engineering, Espionage of nation states, unavoidable vulnerabilities – will be with us in the metaverse.”
This is just the beginning. There are many other risks associated with creating physical representations of ourselves in a virtual world.
Thinking optimistically, perhaps the leap to the metaverse will make all of these issues so obvious and so urgent that big technology – and wider society – will have no choice but to go back and fix the privacy and security problems that have plagued us for so long. drag on long.
That is unlikely, and perhaps even unbelievable. So maybe it’s time we started demanding better from tech companies before they impose on us a future that doesn’t solve any of the problems we already struggle with — and just adds more.
ZDNet’s Monday Morning Opener is our opening version of the week in tech, written by members of our editorial staff. We’re a global team, so this feature article will be published Monday at 8:00 AM AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00 PM Eastern Time on Sundays in the US, and 11:00 PM in London.
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