As an emerging technology birthed from science fiction, the future of the metaverse promises some out-of-this world ideas. And successful campaigns across several industries from fashion to real estate have shown how valuable the metaverse can be.
But the metaverse isn’t a utopia. Major industry players have been under fire for metaverse crimes and safety concerns. If the metaverse is the new frontier of the internet, it currently resembles the Wild West. There isn’t much regulation at the moment, which has led to inconsistent expectations and user experiences, especially surrounding security and privacy best practices.
According to a Sprout survey of 300 marketers responsible for their brands social media strategy, 64% cite data, privacy and brand safety as concerns within the metaverse. Leaders will need to continue identifying and addressing metaverse dangers if they want to scale their metaverse strategy.
Metaverse dangers that exist for brands
Like the promises of the metaverse, metaverse dangers are partly speculation, but there are legitimate concerns about the dark side of the metaverse.
Concerns about circulation of false information and promotion of hate speech just scratch the surface off issues facing the metaverse. Addressing these dangers will require confronting unprecedented technical issues, regulations, education and investment. And with metaverse investments surpassing $120 billion dollars in early 2022—more than double the investment in 2021—brands can’t afford to avoid resolution.
Here are metaverse dangers brands should be aware when joining the metaverse:
Metaverse privacy concerns
Without a doubt, privacy is one of the most pertinent metaverse dangers. As part of Web3, the metaverse has a heavy reliance on the internet and other emerging technologies that will likely increase the amount and range of personal data available to exploit. The more data someone places online, the bigger their digital footprint, which means higher risk of cyberthreats and security breaches.
Along with traditional personal data like addresses and names, the metaverse will also collect new information like biometrics and voice recordings. This type of identifying information is a gold mine for third-party data companies and marketers—and criminals who can collect, abuse and monetize the data.
User data in the metaverse currently includes sensor, location, physiological and social data. For example, extended reality (XR) headsets can record a user’s facial attributes, blinks, movement, surroundings and activities in the metaverse.
What you can do about it:
Data privacy advocates are pushing for companies to share their data collection practices with consumers, whether it’s a requirement by law or an effort for transparency. As with any platform that collects audience data, leaders will need to identify what kind of data they collect and store and define adequate protection to secure it. They’ll also need to consider the legalities, which is also somewhat of a Wild West since there aren’t clear definitions of what is considered personal data information in the metaverse.
Metaverse security concerns
The metaverse has the same cybersecurity risks as modern organizations, like malware, but there are also new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. Someone could hack into an account to access personal messages, bank information, photos, avatars, NFTs and other digital assets.
Industry leaders continue to search for new ways to improve security in the metaverse, especially since anonymity throws another wrench into security concerns.
As revealed in a Tidio report, for many, the main appeal of the metaverse is the ability to create an identity that extends beyond physical reality. But anonymity can enable online scams and abusive behavior (we’re looking at you troller without a profile pic!). Metaverse user identities can be spoofed, hacked or taken altogether to steal sensitive information. The metaverse could make this behavior more widespread if not addressed.
Using biometric data during account creation and login is a common way to protect a user’s digital identity. For example, fingerprint scanning and facial recognition will likely become a default step to log into the metaverse.
What you can do about it:
Leaders will need to confront if their organizations are equipped with the essential tools to detect, contain and eliminate malicious code for metaverse projects. They also need to define what incident response looks like in the metaverse. What would a breach look like? How would the brand communicate and respond?
Leaders need to understand and create frameworks for collaborations to execute incident response efficiently because the answers to these questions will require support inside and outside of metaverse platforms.
The ideal metaverse will converge the virtual and physical world seamlessly. But there are some blockers preventing an inclusive experience that even major tech companies are still trying to resolve.
How will people with disabilities and users with neurodivergent disorders experience the metaverse? How can metaverse creators combat biased artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms? If these types of issues aren’t addressed, the new digital frontier could create more inequity and discrimination.
Affordability also comes into play, for brands and users alike. For users, metaverse devices like AR and VR headsets and haptic bodywear can be expensive. If you can’t afford it, you can’t participate. For tech companies and brands, the cost of blockchain and AI is top concern, especially when trying to prove ROI in these investments.
What you can do about it:
Embracing phygital marketing tactics that incorporate real-life and digital experiences is a great solution for brands who want to craft an inclusive metaverse activation. According to our survey, both marketers (72%) and consumers (60%) expect brands to continue combining real-life and digital experiences in 2023 (i.e., NFT giveaways, in-experience currencies, etc.).
Vandalism, harassment and assault are growing metaverse dangers. Immersive experiences supported by haptic technology transfers touch from the virtual world to the user in real life. This has raised concerns about respecting personal boundaries, as several incidents of groping have been released.
Fraud and theft crimes, particularly NFT theft and cryptocurrency scams are pertinent as well. To put it simply, the victim pays for an item, but does not receive the virtual goods. Phishing and social engineering scams are also prevalent, luring people into providing personal information. The assailant poses as a major brand and baits users to spend real-life money on non-existent products, services and/or campaigns. These fake personas can create distrust and harm the business due to customer dissatisfaction.
What you can do about it:
Companies will need to consider how they can help protect their audience from scams and how to recoup if a cybercrimnal impersonates their brand. To prevent metaverse crimes, consider using two-factor or multi-factor authentication as a preventative control against account takeovers. Brands should promote proper wallet hygiene for their customers and their organization as well.
How to protect your brand from metaverse dangers
Like with any new technology, more metaverse dangers will emerge as the space grows and develops, but organizations can still take measures for brand safety.
Here are some steps marketing and business leaders can take to address potential threats before joining the metaverse, along with tips to safeguard your brand’s current presence:
Create a metaverse data and security team
Leaders will need to acquire awareness of common cybersecurity challenges. Curate a comprehensive oversight security team to develop protocols and procedures. The team should be responsible for understanding and communicating the different emerging metaverse dangers.
This could even include implementing an AI cybersecurity to flag abuse, misconduct and other negative behaviors. Consider giving users access to platform administrators who can intervene by suspending or expelling members from the metaverse.
Develop metaverse terms and conditions
Whether it’s a short-term activation or a permanent metaverse space, create terms and conditions for building a digital community to protect your brand.
For example, to prevent avatar takeover, consider requiring unique skins or pairing accounts with an NFT to prevent identity fraud. These requirements make it harder for cybercriminals to duplicate identities in the metaverse.
You can also use your terms and conditions to implement proper wallet hygiene. To put it simply, consumers and companies should have multiple wallets. It’s common for consumers to have three separate wallets: a mint wallet, a selling wallet and a vault wallet. All of these wallets should be used appropriately. For example, a vault wallet should solely be used for high value digital assets since it’s not connected to the internet.
For organizations, there are custodial platforms that can customize the wallet experience for corporate digital assets. These corporate wallets also require multi-step authorization and/or signatures. If your brand is creating or sponsoring a metaverse, it’s a wise choice to educate your customers on the benefits of wallet hygiene because it could help facilitate adoption.
Some policies to consider:
- User data. Define the type of data you plan to use and its duration. Also include users’ rights to access personal information.
- Communication. Articulate user rights for solicited and unsolicited communication as it may vary depending on your technology and platform. For example, an AR universe includes virtual-to-virtual and physical-to-virtual communications. In a VR universe, communication is all immersive virtual-to-virtual.
- Ownership. User generated content is a pillar of the metaverse. UGC can vary widely and be monetized, so include rules about ownership of virtual digital goods, avatar skins, NFTs, etc. Use technology like blockchain for asset ownership tracking to manage content ownership.
Create a metaverse moderation team
Craft a moderation team dedicated to active monitoring on your metaverse platform of choice. This team should review and address tone, conversations and reactions to prevent escalation. If you want to go the extra mile, consider implementing a customer service team to walk through the rules of your metaverse activation or act as a live “hotline” for users to connect with in the space when they need help. This will help ensure users are playing by the rules and reduce risk to the platform and other users.
Many metaverse users tend to have a lower guard in virtual environments, especially those used for entertainment. Even brands working in the metaverse have to train employees about security practices. Since users might not be as vigilant about cybersecurity, building security initiatives that teach users to be cautious can prevent abuse and breaches.
Take action against metaverse dangers
The metaverse isn’t perfect, but it is ripe with opportunities we may have never imagined. By taking these measures you can safeguard your brand against metaverse dangers and set your company up for success:
Learn more about how to join the metaverse in our guide so you can expand your brand in the new digital frontier.