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Dear privacy pros,

As always, it has been another interesting week in the privacy world, with no shortage of exciting new developments for you to digest (pun intended) below.

One area I am thinking a lot more about these days is the future state of privacy in the brave new world that seems to be nearly upon us. In this regard, the Verge article on the potential threat new augmented reality technologies pose to privacy is well worth a read.

The concerns highlighted in the article tie in with the recent news that Facebook (the company, not the product) is rebranding itself to Meta Platforms, as a reflection of its new “metaverse-first” philosophy. Already one of the most well-capitalized and largest company in the world, Meta intends to invest $50 million over the next two years and hire an additional 10,000 people across Europe in the next five years to make its ambitions a reality.

Besides the typical layman response of “what exactly is the metaverse,” the corporate rebranding effort has also been met with mixed reactions from plaudits to scorn, with some commentators accusing Facebook of attempting to deflect attention away from the issues it currently faces over various allegations brought forth by former-employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, or calling this Facebook’s “Big Tobacco” moment.

Ms. Haugen left Facebook with a trove of thousands of internal documents now labeled the Facebook Papers, redacted versions of which have been provided to the U.S. Congress and released to news organizations. These documents suggest Facebook has long had compelling evidence the algorithms employed on its platform tended to promote hate speech and misinformation activities. Other revelations include how Instagram can harm the mental well-being of its youngest users and how almost a third of young teen girls felt worse about their bodies after scrolling through Instagram.

It would be interesting to see how all this plays out and whether Mark Zuckerberg’s promise that the envisioned virtual reality platform will come with robust privacy standards, parental controls and disclosures about data use will come true.

All I will say is that infinity (Meta’s newly adopted logo) does not have a beginning. Or to quote Gall’s Law:

"A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: a complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a simple system."

The evolution of the internet from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and the coming revolution of Web 3.0 suggests to me that a wave of decentralization is upon us, and the future of metaverse is more likely to be built on a world computer leveraging distributed ledgers and storage on blockchain, allowing content creators to control and monetize their work and individuals to be masters of their own identity.

What would privacy look like in such a world?

Kind regards.


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