In the Metaverse, your identity can be revealed by moving
New research has uncovered some worrying findings about user privacy in Metaverse, the Meta virtual reality (VR) ecosystem; more specifically, you really don’t.
Graduate researcher Vivek Nair led a UC Berkeley team that largest virtual reality study (opens in a new tab) Responsible Decentralized Intelligence Center (RDI (opens in a new tab)), analyzing user interactions with VR to determine privacy levels.
Most worryingly, it appears that only minimal information is required to pinpoint users’ personal identities, making maintaining anonymity a real challenge — if Meta and other VR companies are even interested in offering this.
When it comes to VR and privacy, previous study (opens in a new tab) Focus on the myriad of cameras and microphones inside, which can recognize the user’s face, voice, and surroundings. Looking ahead, privacy advocates are also concerned about the advent of advanced brain-scanning technology that could be integrated into headphones.
But, as the UC Berkeley study shows, these don’t even need to reveal someone’s identity — all that’s needed is the user’s head and hand movement data.
Over 50,000 subjects were studied, with more than 2.5 million records of VR data associated with them while playing the VR game Beat Saber, which requires near-constant movement of the hands and sometimes the head.
Using advanced AI analytics, individuals can be uniquely identified with an astonishing 94% accuracy in as little as 100 seconds of extraction from this motion data. What’s more, more than half of them can be identified with only two seconds of data.
This means that people’s movements can be used as unique identifiers, like fingerprints.However, as some have pointed out, this motion data may actually be more accurate than fingerprints, for most common devices (opens in a new tab) Able to correctly identify one person out of less than 1500.
In addition, such VR data can also used (opens in a new tab) Highly accurate determination of user’s handedness, height and even gender.combine more Data typically collected by VR systems (opens in a new tab)and you have real problems maintaining any kind of privacy.
If the Metaverse does expand as far as Meta hopes, the issue of protecting privacy will be greatly magnified. For example, if online shopping takes place in VR, the store will be able to tell you from the way you walk around the virtual workshop.
venture capital (opens in a new tab) Speak to Nair about this and say the problem is that “kinetic dataflow is a fundamental part of how the Metaverse currently works.”
Several solutions have been proposed to prevent the abandonment of user privacy in VR. One is to obfuscate motion data when it is transmitted to an external server. However, this would mean introducing noise, which could affect how accurately VR headsets and controllers can detect the user’s movement, which is an issue for games like the aforementioned Beat Saber, as they place the greatest demands on these.
Another is to implement regulations that stop Meta and other companies from collecting this data, but that won’t be easy given how entrenched Big Tech is in collecting user data of all kinds.
The Berkeley researchers are also working on techniques that could be used to maintain user privacy by masking uniquely identifiable motion data without compromising the accuracy and effective operation of the VR device.