Metaverse: Future of Digital Connection or Privacy’s Worst Nightmare?

Saying that the company is expanding in terms of services, Facebook’s CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, changed the company’s name to Meta, wanting the new name to represent this change. But why did they rename it to Meta

Meta comes from the Greek word beyond. Facebook has expanded its business model from just an app where people can connect and share pictures (Facebook) to a messaging platform (Whatsapp and Messenger) and a social Virtual Reality application (Meta Horizon). The range of services explains the new company name. 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are not new concepts. They have been around for several years, and we have experienced them. Facebook (now renamed Meta) has taken the next step to introduce the Meta Horizon, which connects people in the virtual world, allowing them to have a workspace environment. Additionally, it also provides a space to play video games and interact in any way imaginable. 

Initially, the idea of the Meta Horizon, also known as the Metaverse, was idealistic to people, for it seems like a scene right out of science fiction movies or dystopian books. In practice, the Meta Horizon will work in 3D digital environments, which can be reachable through connected headsets. The users will interact with each other via avatars or holographic representations.  

Meta becomes part of what you see rather than a third-party viewer, opening up a whole new universe. Digitally, you can be whoever you want and wherever you want. When the Metaverse is fully developed, time and space will no longer matter. Hopefully, I can attend a Taylor Swift concert virtually without feeling blue about her not doing a show in Asia. 

Every pro comes with its con. Increased use of Metaverse also means that more of the user’s information will be used and shared, which brings us to privacy concerns. In matters involving data and user privacy, Facebook is not very reliable; its history proves it. Starting around 2010, researchers noticed that Facebook placed software on websites other than Facebook. At the time, websites included widgets that allowed users to like or share content on Facebook without leaving. Privacy advocates were concerned that Facebook used the data it collects to track everything we do online.

In response, Facebook said, in clear terms, it does not use web data to track people. It said it will only use the data for advertising if you actively click on the widget and share the content with your friends. Despite the prior mentioned statement, in 2014, Facebook announced that advertisers will now be able to target us based on the websites we visit. Facebook began to track everything we do beyond our ‘happy’ blue wall. 

In later years, firms like Cambridge Analytica used Facebook user data for their companies. On the 10th of April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg appeared for his Congress Testimony, apologising for not taking enough action to prevent Facebook from being used for harm by foreign groups and firms like Cambridge Analytica. He further ate humble pie publicly for the breach of private user data in the following words:

It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

This scandal greatly affected people’s trust in Meta, and it took the company several years to rebuild its reputation. However, people are still raising concerns, especially regarding the Meta Horizon. As the usage of the number of devices in houses increases, users will have to give more information. Will Meta be successful in using more user data for its profit? Mayhaps, yes. 

For Meta, user data is a product sold to businesses and online ad management. Facebook makes tracking software available to business partners to embed in their apps and websites. Companies and groups that need to promote online have little choice but to feed their activity into the Facebook void. We might think that Facebook is free of cost, but in reality, the look of currency is unique this time. We pay facebook with our private data.

The question stands: do we care enough? Most of us are intrigued by the idea of living in a virtual world and experiencing it. Maybe, it will digitally advance our society or be a novel attraction to use more of Meta’s services. Given the uncertainty in the world, it is hard to predict the exact consequences of using Meta. Will it be the pathway to a successful future or a road to destruction?

by : Mahnoor Tabassam

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s