'VR glasses users are inadequately protected'

04/02/2024
44

Today, Apple is launching a new pair of glasses that goes a long way to fusing the physical and digital worlds. But proper rules protecting users of this kind of glasses are not yet sufficiently developed. Consumers are therefore exposed to risks around privacy and self-determination.

Via six microphones and 12 cameras, among others, the new Vision Pro scans the environment and projects digital information on it. The glasses can be used at work or for relaxation, for example.

For now, the glasses are only available in the United States, and with a price of USD 3,500, they are by no means affordable for everyone. Still, the launch is a sign that Apple is investing in increasing consumer use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These are so-called immersive technologies, which immerse users in a physical-digital world. Apple itself, by the way, does not call them VR glasses, but a device for spacial computing.

For optimal performance, these kinds of glasses need a lot of data about your behaviour and body. Think of pupil size, voice or your position in relation to your surroundings. As a user or bystander, it is difficult to oversee what intimate information, now or later, can be derived from that data. Due to the immersive nature of technology, manipulation and influence lurk.

Recent research by the Rathenau Institute shows that European rules on data collection through glasses limit the possibility for influence and manipulation. At the same time, there are all kinds of intimate data that may still be collected with the consent of the user of the glasses.

Better agreements are therefore needed in the short term on what types of personal data VR glasses are allowed to collect, under what conditions and for what applications. Governments should be keen on this, because as a consumer you are not in a good position to force the developers of these kinds of glasses to behave responsibly.

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