How to Protect Human Rights in the 3D Immersive Web — NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights

Human Rights

Immersive technology will power the “metaverse,” the sprawling collection of virtual environments on which the Silicon Valley giant Meta has staked its future success.   

Other large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Sony, have made sizable investments in immersive technology as well, using alternative terms like “extended reality” (XR) and “spatial computing.” Regardless of the specific form that it takes, the 3D web will usher in new threats to human rights and exacerbate old ones. Businesses and policymakers should learn from the mistakes of the past and take proactive action to mitigate those harms.

The report makes the following pragmatic recommendations:

To the industry:

  • Provide various options for users to control their exposure to privacy and safety risks.

  • Incorporate privacy, safety, and cybersecurity best practices from the earliest stages of design and before launching new products and features.

  • Invest in the development of automation tools that can reliably carry out proactive moderation in 3D virtual environments.

  • Provide clear and accurate information to the public about critical aspects of the technology that might affect their privacy, safety, and security.

  • Include people with diverse abilities and lived experiences in product design, development, and deployment teams.

To the government:

  • Pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation which restricts the use of body-based data for profiling users and strengthens the concept of user consent.

  • Strengthen federal authority and capacity to oversee digital industries, including XR platforms.

  • Empower federal agencies to investigate the health consequences and environmental impact of immersive technologies.

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