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Metaverse risks & consumer safety requirements highlighted in new whitepaper
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Opportunity for Australia to be global leader in safe deployment of the元宇宙 

Standards Australia has launched its元宇宙 and Standards Whitepaper, which was produced in collaboration with the Responsible元宇宙 Alliance (RMA)*.  

The Whitepaper, developed with support from the Australian Commonwealth Government, explores the opportunities and risks stemming from the元宇宙, its potential impact on society and the economy.  

More importantly, it addresses measures that must be put in place to mitigate these risks and the need for, and role of, standards. 

With the potential to generate up to US$5 trillion by 2030, the元宇宙 refers to interconnected virtual worlds that enable users to explore new places, interact with other consumers and experience new things in an immersive digital environment.  

Deemed the next iteration of the internet, it is set to change the way in which individuals interact with the world around them.  

The Whitepaper highlights Australia’s potential to be a global leader in the safe deployment of the元宇宙, paving the way for innovation and shaping industries, while setting a benchmark for the world in this space. 

The authors suggest that to meet its potential and prevent targeted influence and manipulation in the元宇宙, Australia must build upon existing work in the areas of Online Safety and Safety by Design. 

Specifically, standards should be built around the following key areas:  

• The right to experiential authenticity: Consumers should have the right to be made aware of what is a promotional experience in the元宇宙, versus an authentic encounter. 

• The right to emotional privacy: Consumers should have the right to not have their emotional reactions assessed and stored, including facial expressions, vocal inflections, or vital signs. Particularly, AI in the元宇宙 can detect “micro-expressions” which are too brief or subtle for human observers to notice, and consumers should have the right to not be assessed by these. 

• The right to behavioural privacy: Consumers should have the right to not have their behavioural data taken, stored and given to platforms to create profiles of their activities or AI models that predict their actions over time. Consumers should also be protected from their emotional data and behavioural data being correlated, which could allow for promotional experiences that don’t just guide what users do in immersive worlds, but predictively influence how they’re likely to feel while doing it. 

• The right to human agency: Consumers should have the right to make their own decisions in the元宇宙 and be protected from any system that takes their emotional and behavioural data in real time and, using an AI-powered feedback control system, alters the information to make it appealing to the user.  

Certain groups may be more vulnerable or at higher risk, such as young people, marginalised and disadvantaged communities, the elderly and individuals with disabilities or health conditions. 

Dr. Catriona Wallace - Founder of the Responsible元宇宙 Alliance - says: “Generative AI used to operate avatars in the 'dark元宇宙' also known as the ‘Darkverse’, have been used to groom and blackmail children, exposing the serious dangers of an unpoliced and unregulated元宇宙. Immediate regulation and monitoring are necessary to prevent such crimes.” 

“Dangers of occurrences like this, particularly those that could put children at risk, amplify the need for standards to be deployed, with guidelines to safeguard vulnerable groups. There are currently no specific regulations in place for the元宇宙 aside from existing data protection and privacy laws, intellectual property laws and criminal laws.”  

Kareen Riley-Takos - General Manager of Operations at Standards Australia - reiterates the need for Standards in the元宇宙.  

“The implementation of Standards is a crucial step towards the safe deployment of the元宇宙 for all groups, especially young people under 16 years old, who make up two-thirds of the users of the元宇宙,” she says. 

“With Australia having one of the highest online penetration rates in the world - at 91 per cent in 2022 - it is critical that the Australian government and Standards Australia execute standards and regulations to keep Australians safe.”  

In response to the findings of the paper, Standards Australia intends to establish an expert committee to oversee, analyse and progress standards across the regulatory landscape, both domestically and internationally.  

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