We have explored the nature and capabilities of augmented and virtual reality (“AR/VR”) technologies in previous articles. We have discussed how these technologies can collect, store, and share personal or confidential information with third parties. The user information that’s collected may be stored and shared for financial gain in most situations. The third-party service providers (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) that have access to these technologies may conduct data analysis to learn more about their users through behavioral marketing. The AR/VR technology manufacturers may implement some type of user surveillance for profit. However, it should be noted that these practices should be conducted with the user’s knowledge and authorization.
Now, with that being said, the users should be protected by the state, federal, and international legislators and policymakers. The legislators and policymakers should consider implementing the proper safeguards within their laws that would protect the consumers. We have mentioned the main issues in previous articles which, include, but may not be limited to, data privacy and cybersecurity. Data privacy is a key component to any kind software and hardware technology. There have been multiple cases where the manufacturer failed to implement user protection safeguards. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has prosecuted legal actions against manufacturers and other commercial organizations. For example, In the Matter of Zoom Video Communications, Inc., Zoom was required to implement a robust information security program to settle allegations that it had engaged in a series of deceptive and unfair practices that undermined user security. In addition, in another case, LifeLock was forced to pay $100 million to settle contempt charges that it violated the terms of a federal court order that required it to secure consumers’ personal information and prohibited it from deceptive advertising. The FTC has been charged with the task of prosecuting consumer fraud. Please refer to https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/terms/249 for more information.
Regulatory uncertainty plays an important role in the future of AR/VR technology since many of the existing laws do not address each and every issue. Although the existing laws provide certain guidance to the device and application manufacturers, however, there are certain and cognizable loopholes that should be addressed by state, federal, and international legislators. So, for example, there should be clarity on the scope of tracking software that has been implemented in the technology. Also, on a side note, there should be a way to fully disclose the technology’s capabilities and to obtain user consent – i.e., the device and application manufacturers should provide an opt-out option to avoid unfair, deceptive, or misleading advertising. It’s important to note that the FTC Act (codified under 15 U.S.C. §§ 41-48), under Section 5, grants the federal agency the right to file legal actions. The term “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” includes such acts or practices involving foreign commerce that: (i) cause or are likely to cause reasonably foreseeable injury within the United States; or (ii) involve material conduct occurring within the United States. So, in essence, the federal agency promotes transparency and disclosure in order to properly inform and protect consumers.