In a recent article, left-wing Slate notes that Facebook’s attempt to rebrand itself as “Meta” and focus on a digital “metaverse” does not change the fact that the company’s primary goal is to collect as much personal information about users as possible. The company promises freedom with its new technology, but according to Slate, it amounts to a “high-tech medical exam.”
In an article titled “What Mark Zuckerberg Really Means When He Talks About the Metaverse,” Slate examines recent comments made by Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s plans for its metaverse project, which Zuckerberg describes as an “embodied internet.”
The metaverse, as it is being marketed, is a broad concept that incorporates a lot of the virtual- and augmented-reality schtick of The Matrix and Minority Report. It’s a new world to explore and a new dimension overlaying the old one. Zuckerberg describes it as “a persistent, synchronous environment” that is “going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles.” It’s clear that Zuckerberg the geek is excited. He sees the metaverse as the next great leap for the internet, analogous to the movement to smartphones and the mobile web. But what’s new here? Don’t we already have Gmail, Fitbit, and Second Life?
One key difference is that this embodied internet entails new sensors monitoring us while we browse, interact, and move about the world—lots of new sensors. Each new generation of Facebook hardware has added more. The heart of all recent versions of the Oculus VR headset is “Oculus Insight,” an A.I. tracking system that uses three types of sensors: sensors tracking the orientation and movements of the headset and controllers, four built-in headset cameras mapping out your room, and LEDs in the controllers tracked by the headset, all of which feed Insight to help it “track your position and environment in real-time with sub-millimeter precision.” Oculus controllers now contain capacitive sensors which finely detect the movements of your fingers. Oculus also integrates with your phone and other devices for heart-rate and fitness tracking. Zuckerberg has hinted at and demoed face- and eye-tracking for future Quest/Cambria models, and recent leaks of the Quest Pro have suggested fingerprint sensors. In the parallel world of augmented reality, Facebook’s new Ray-Ban smart glasses contain cameras for taking photos/videos and a microphone for taking calls. The addition of more sensors and cameras increases the amount of egocentric data that Facebook can collect.
Slate further notes that the idea of the metaverse links the user’s individual body, ideas, and actions to the digital realm in a way that removes any current online anonymity. Slate notes that while Facebook is in control of the metaverse and more VR headsets and camera-fitted Ray-Bans are connected to the company, people are continuing to give up even more of their privacy.
The metaverse, it turns out, is less cryptographic origami and more high-tech medical exam. The metaverse inextricably links the user’s individual, corporeal body and the ideas and actions that person takes. It’s about ever more granularly tracking and defining the individual consumer, down to our subconscious and involuntary reactions. The shocking thing about this is how easily the wow-factor of VR helmets and tricked out Ray-Bans have distracted us from the core, inevitable problem. The more deeply these devices are connected to Facebook’s ecosystem of apps and identity, the more the same old Facebook problems will come straight back to the fore: systematic mass surveillance, development of biased and opaque algorithms, and a general disdain for transparency or accountability. If there were any doubt, Facebook has already begun integrating its core social media services with its VR hardware: It has thoroughly integrated Facebook sign-in for some time and rolled out Facebook Messenger integration into Oculus earlier this year.
Read more at Slate here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address email@example.com