Innovation to Protect Privacy in the Metaverse
Privacy issues on the Metaverse have been a concern from conception. Now a new service called MetaGuard aims to protect users by providing an “Incognito Metaverse” plugin. A paper entitled “Going Incognito in the Metaverse” claimed VR users are being profiled, deanonymized, and data harvested by Metaverse Platforms. MetaGuard is an open source C# plugin for the Unity Engine, used widely for VR creation. It aims to prevent personally identifiable data from being collected by limiting and creating “noise” into metrics to stop data from being linked to a person. MetaGuard uses Differential Privacy, which allows people to share their data anonymously.
“The ultimate goal of MetaGuard is the same as an incognito mode on the web: to prevent users from being tracked from one session to another.”
Vivek Nair – MetaGuard
Metrics being recorded in the Metaverse include voice, location, and biometrics, with plans to use the information to target advertising by Meta. MetaGuard can alter a user’s voice pitch, for example, 85 Hz lower or 255 Hz higher than the actual frequency. The extent of variation is set in the plugin as low, medium, or high. Geo-coordinates may be altered to protect the user’s location.
“It has the potential to significantly improve the privacy of VR users, with our experiments showing an over 90 per cent reduction in attack accuracy for several private data attributes and a 95 per cent reduction in deanonymization of users.”
Vivek Nair – MetaGuard
One possible drawback of MetaGuard is interoperability through data sharing. For interoperability to work on the Metaverse and to provide a seamless experience, there will need to be a collection of personal data. Creating noise in the metrics may work on siloed Metaverse platforms, but the technology will need to evolve as the Metaverse interconnects.
Another solution to data collection is being worked on by Solid. The Solid Project, led by Prof. Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), is an open-source platform that aims to allow people to control their data and stop the misuse of data on the internet. Solid is a specification that lets allows secure data storage through decentralised “Pods”. Pods are data servers that people can control access to. This enables people to manage their data usage. The specification has already been demonstrated in multiplayer online games such as chess, so it could provide the privacy solution the Metaverse is crying out for. The project may have profound implications on privacy and how web 3.0 applications and the Metaverse will work.