Technology will continue to make the world more interconnected and efficient. With advancements in augmenting our reality, even taking full control of it with virtual environments (Virtual Reality), we will eliminate many of the limitations the physical world imposes upon us. Everyday we have social norms we feel we must adhere to, we have governmental laws and regulations to abide by, and even nature has physical restrictions forced upon us, like gravity. What if we weren’t confined to these normal “rules” we live by each day?
Well, these are malleable in the dawning era of 3D computing and virtual reality. But have we even begun to understand the implications of this awe-inspiring power that “creating new worlds” will bestow upon us. Hardly, but we must start discussing now the rapidly approaching future that makes us more God-like than ever.
Virtual Reality will allow for the most detailed and intimate collection of data yet, essentially making it an “ultimate surveillance machine”. My personal hope is to leave this digitizing society behind because we are on the brink of mortgaging the next generation’s right to have inner thoughts and feelings without the exploitation of governments, corporations or any of the powers that have ceased control and pull the strings of societies. My unconceived son deserves to make that decision on his own.
Welcome to the Dark Reality of Augmenting and Virtualizing “Reality”. If you already know what data is being collected about you, skip the following three paragraphs.
Today, we collect troves of data about people who use the internet to “personalize” experiences, such as serve up advertisements and provide severe weather warnings. We freely give up this information (too freely) for the conveniences they provide. Most of what we offer is innocuous at first glance, such as GPS coordinates, zip code, full name and so on. But that was the soft sell to gain our compliance.
Now, we have a standard of passive acceptance in which is weakening our rights of “reasonable expectation of privacy. In the United States it is Fourth Amendment. You can read more about Internet Privacy in the UK from the Library of Congress.
If you asked the writers of these laws that are designed to protect, they’d likely agree their fortitude has eroded with the internet. With what started as demographical information to better serve the people has evolved into the intimate documentation of everyone that uses phones, computers, cars, “cloud”s and/or the many other devices that surveille us in real time. Records of our private conversations, family photos, medical procedures, web queries, banking, and plenty more are all being hoarded, organized and used to manipulate our buying habits.
Because one of the major Virtual Reality hardware companies, Oculus is a subsidiary of Facebook, we ask: How much does Facebook know about us? Too much. Plain and simply, they too much to feel uninvaded. If you use their messenger app, it is most likely the microphone is recording 24/7. Check your phone’s permissions. Up to 900 million people being recorded by audio and video each day. But WHY?!
Your data is collected and sold by Facebook (and many other sites). But Facebook made a $2billion $3billion dollar investment in Oculus VR. Facebook’s entire model is based on selling data. We, the users, are the product Facebook sells for revenue. We are profiled, categorized, evaluated, and sold.
VR presents itself as an unprecedented tool for attaining large swabs of intimate information that will lead a foray into the inner workings of our minds that would leave even Freud shitting his knackers.
Being worked into the headsets (not exclusively or publically by Oculus) is sensors. You may be familiar with a technique called “foveated rendering” which uses an eye tracker to reduce how much rendering is necessary for the head mounted display to display. By reducing the rendering workload and the image quality in our peripherals we shorten the connect between image and brain. Simply, foveated rendering does not render where you are not directly looking and your vision doesn’t know the difference.
It is starting with eye tracking, because of its obvious value, but it is far from the only biometric VR is preparing to measure. Vocal intonations, breathing patterns, heart rate, skin conductivity, and other ways to mine ourselves like neuro-EEGs will soon be coming to a headset bought by you! We’re a bit away from EEG, but not that far. If 2012 wasn’t so long ago, 2022 is pretty damn near and you can bet your bottom bitcoin Facebook’s biometric plans will be in full capitalistic swing.
Our eyes say so much about us, what we’re thinking where our interests are. How common it is to look for lies in people’s eyes. Some call them the windows to the soul and if you look deeply enough into someone’s eyes you know it is true. Eyes shift and move and reveal far more about us than most of us can or have even tried to understand – but they are personal. We give eye contact to people we are communicating with and not to is to reject. Will the machines we make be able o interpret these natural human behaviors and convert them into data to be analyized and monetized?
We’ll draw many conclusions from the eye tracking in virtual and augmented reality headsets, but we will also improve our social experiences. If my eyes are being mirrored by my avatars while I’m socializing in VR then the experience for everyone will be… enhanced? I hesitate to say it will be better, but it can be more accurately reflective of the physical world (which is probably a simulation anyways so we are just building simulations inside simulations). We will find entire new ways to express ourselves with VR. Maybe I can make my eyes turn to fire when my blood pressure goes up. Maybe my skin changes colors when I’m on a secret mission and want to be camouflaged. Maybe I grow wings when I’m high.
We should be rather demanding of the benefits tracking will bring because I see interfacing and navigating with our eyes far less likely than whoring them out as mining tools. The benefits of tracking can be crowed about by all the world but we must objectively consider the gain. Am I navigating with my eyes? Why do I want to know my inner most thoughts, I already know my inner most thoughts. I’m going to let you mine them so you can filter them and give them back? No thanks.
To contribute to the great effort of understanding people and their preferences to create better experiences, all based on the rich data eye movements provide? I’ll choose my own settings, thanks.
Trying to conceal your data might be impossible, but maybe the more secure play is to flood the system with additional data to dilute the truth of you. Cry wolf and become a untrustworthy source of information.
So what do the privacy policies actually say? They are collecting Cookies and Beacons. As a quick refresher Cookies are files that store your login information and the ads you’ve been served. Beacons communicate with a server and they are embedded into content. This is common across almost all our content and devices.
The have your GPS, time zone and IP location. They plan to share your information with trusted third parties. The will use your personal data for marketing purposes. They remind you none of your information is 100% safe. All social communication is saved.
Oculus is additionally storing all your body movements, the slightest tilts of you head, the size of your room and whatever else they are able to gather. They explain this is for our own good, as it will make our experience better. Including storing it permanently, it’s going to improve our future games.
But as a reality check it is not just Oculus. Somehow Samsung Gear is “powered by Oculus” so you know all the data is being swapped and shared as they all building mountains of data I hope the tumble to the bottom of when the data-bubble bursts. Until then all we can recommend is throw up false flags and get a bunch of different people playing in your VR so you can to some extend conceal your identity.