In October 2021, Facebook announced that it was rebranding its parent company as Meta and investing billions into a new concept of the internet dubbed the “Metaverse.” Adding a layer of virtual-reality over the social media platform, Facebook hopes to play a leadership role in the next generation of the internet, with new 3D environments for interacting in work and leisure.

On November 3rd, UChicago CS Assistant Professor Blase Ur joined the WTTW news magazine Chicago Tonight to discuss the metaverse, its hype, and its risks for security and privacy.

“If we look at this also, how we’re working from home this pandemic, There’s a lot of value to technology mediating communication,” Ur said. “That said, being part of this virtual world has lots of downsides and concerns. I’m not sure that I myself really want to live my whole life in a virtual world.”

Those concerns are especially strong given Facebook’s spotty track record on privacy with its social media platforms.

“If we think about the access to information Facebook has had, a lot of it has been mediated by your phone or your keyboard. They’re picking up all these signals about who you are, personalizing things to you, typecasting and stereotyping you based on your words and photos you’re uploading,” Ur said. “But in this metaverse, they’re capturing lots of new signals about your body and how you move through space, exactly what you’re doing in all parts of life. If this vision of we’re going to live large parts of our life in the metaverse is true, well, large parts of your life will be tracked and surveilled. So I think the privacy concerns are boundless as we move into this world.”

Watch the full Chicago Tonight segment here, and learn more about Blase Ur’s research on human-computer interaction, security, usability, and privacy at SUPERgroup.

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