Augmented and Virtual Reality Laws – Part I

Augmented and virtual realities are cutting-edge technologies that are changing the world. Now, with that comes a significant amount of legal issues such as cybersecurity, privacy and regulations at the state, federal, and international levels.

Augmented reality (“AR”) technology is currently being used by several companies such as Nintendo, IKEA, Instagram and Snapchat. Virtual reality (“VR”) technology has been used by companies such as Oculus Rift, PlayStation, and HTC Vive.

The courts have been grappling with online or offline violations for many years. Now, with the advent with these technologies, they will be facing new issues related to online or e-commerce transactions. The question is how will the courts deal with street crimes in the virtual world? What if a known or unknown individual engages in “indecent exposure” or “virtual groping” against another person? What if the culprit commits a tort (e.g., negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress) against the victim in the AR/VR world? What if the victim’s privacy is invaded by spreading his or her intimate pictures or videos towards unauthorized parties?

The courts will have to apply the century-old legal concepts and principles when necessary. For example, the causes of action for negligence or invasion or privacy could be applicable in some cases. However, in other cases, the state, federal, or international courts should create new laws or exceptions, if necessary, to reach a fair and reasonable result. The courts must balance user privacy and technological advancement rights to create an equitable platform for all parties. In other words, the users should feel safe and protected when they are utilizing the latest virtual or augmented reality technologies. The consumers should not be concerned about privacy and cybersecurity issues as long as they follow the protocols. The technology companies that create and sell their products or services must be very concerned about privacy and cybersecurity issues since they should implement the proper and necessary safeguards to prevent violations – e.g., hackers, virus implementation and distribution.

There must be state, federal, and international laws that prohibit access and dissemination of private and confidential information through any platform. This private and confidential information includes, but may not be limited to, trade secrets and intellectual properties. It can also include intimate pictures or videos that belong to the users. Now, each jurisdiction such as California, New York, Texas, Colorado, and other states have passed or attempted to pass new legislation that protects the citizens’ privacy rights. This is an important step because AR/VR devices also collect private and confidential information which can be unlawfully accessed and disseminated on the internet without the user’s consent. The AR/VR devices are able to collect biometric information about the users. So, there must be transparency, practical options, and security for the interested parties.

The state and federal legislators should understand these technologies and their particular shortcomings in order to propose the right kind of laws. The policy makers should be properly educated on when, how, or why the actual harm can be tied to the consumer’s information. Then, they can propose legislation that has the proper preventive and reactive measures. For example, the new legislation should not attempt to micromanage the technology companies but instead it should outline a practical and reasonable compliance path. This is important because they can ultimately avoid government regulation by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission or other regulatory bodies. Finally, the legislation should not have any loopholes that would permit the bad actors (e.g., hackers) to circumvent the rules or regulations.

Our internet and technology lawyers have been prosecuting and defending legal actions in state and federal courts and are available to speak with their clients. Our law firm assists clients in matters related to privacy and cybersecurity and the applicable state, federal, and international laws. Please contact our law firm to speak with an internet attorney at your earliest convenience.