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Can the Metaverse and Data Ethics Coexist?

Each week we hear another announcement of companies investing or announcing new initiatives in metaverse. If you have managed to avoid the hype and are not fully aware of what the metaverse involves, it is essentially the idea that the next iteration of the internet will be a shared universe underpinned by various digital experiences and a suite of economic services to go with them. In the future, it is likely, for example, that consumers will be able to watch movies, attend concerts and go shopping in the metaverse, buying and selling with a digitalized economy traded for real world currency. 

Of course, at this stage, we don’t know with any certainty what form the metaverse will take or exactly how or if consumers will use it. Nevertheless, what we do know is that any type of immersive digital experience will be fueled by data and a lot of this data will be personal information on users. In fact, the metaverse will have the capacity to collect and analyze an unparalleled amount of data on its users.

The question for designers of any new digital product or service and the companies that create and engage in them is – how do they ensure that the way data is collected and used is ethical?

And, as part of that, transparent to users?

Inherently technology always moves faster than the law. Therefore, when it comes to preparing for the metaverse, the likelihood is that the onus will be on businesses and marketers to look beyond compliance in order to achieve ethical use of data.

Of course, as the world of big data continues to implode, this may appear a daunting process. But the good news is that there are some simple steps businesses can take to promote best practice and ensure a solid ethical foundation is in place.

To begin with, companies should consider their people.

Curating greater diversity in tech is critical to avoiding closed and self-reinforcing approaches to data and digital innovation and preventing unintentional bias in algorithms. In this way, creating a more diverse workforce should be seen as more than meeting a quota or ticking a box but a business imperative. To achieve this, businesses should give careful consideration to their recruitment process, making sure everything from job descriptions to interview formats promote an inclusive, unbiased agenda.

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Taking the time to actively target minority groups or seek referrals from minority employees can pay dividends in enabling greater representation too. But recruiting diverse talent is only half the battle. Establishing an inclusive company culture that makes all employees feel welcome, recognized and supported, and actively celebrates differences and new ways of thinking is key to retaining a diversity of talent and wide intellectual capacity.

The next part is data education.  While once confined to data analytics and business intelligence teams, the ability to understand and interpret data is now a common and essential task for every business area and ranking. Educating your entire team on how to manage and use data ensures everyone understands the opportunities, risks and standards they should adhere to ensure consistency across the board. 

Next, good data accountability should always be top of the agenda for every company. 

At a basic level, companies should identify who is accountable for the impact of their use of data and that their applications are being used fairly. To ensure cross-organization accountability, this should be established as a company-wide initiative with all employees aware of the various processes and procedures in place.

Finally, there is, of course, compliance. Many businesses will be well versed in the data protection and privacy legislation in their region which they must adhere to. However, we would always urge businesses to go beyond standard compliance. As the law struggles to keep up with the rapid and ever-evolving rate of technological innovation, the reality is that there will always be additional, non-mandatory opportunities to break new boundaries in data ethics and online privacy. Those that go the extra mile will enhance their reputation, while remaining enterprising and progressive.

The metaverse may be years away.

But in the meantime developing trends such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and 5G hyper-connectivity continue to push a new age of bigger data. With this comes an opportunity for businesses to go beyond compliance and break new ground in their commitment to ethical principles. As the digital evolution continues to spark new debate around the roles of privacy and personalization, this approach will instill trust, create standout and pave the foundations for the future trajectory as we prepare for the unknown.

Recommended: OpTeamizer To Support Startups In Developing AI Models At NVIDIA-Supported Innovation Center

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

 

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