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Metaverse - November 17, 2022

Will The Metaverse Need Policing?

The transition into the next digital age is already underway. Conversations about the metaverse – an open-source, interoperable platform for digital environments, ecosystems, and assets – are becoming increasingly commonplace. In February 2022, Gartner even predicted 25 percent of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026.

Backed by technology giants like Google, Microsoft, and Meta, this environment has the potential to change many aspects of people’s everyday lives. Even concepts like the virtual workplace are becoming increasingly appealing.

Innovators investing in the metaverse have already begun to share their insights on the benefits this unique landscape could bring. The metaverse holds the key to more immersive business interactions, better creativity, and incredible opportunities for diversity and inclusion. However, it also presents a unique set of challenges from a safety, privacy, and security standpoint.

Considering the rapid surge in data protection issues and cyber-attacks following the acceleration of digitisation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of the spatial communications platform could potentially lead to similar issues. Many experts are already discussing concerns over cybercrime, fraud, and even the protection of individual users.

The Security and Safety Issues of the Metaverse
Every new technological innovation unlocks new opportunities for criminals and challenges for security professionals. The new frontier of the metaverse and accompanying technologies like Web 3.0 will require law enforcement groups to transform and innovate at an incredible pace.

Fortunately, it seems the issue of policing the metaverse is already beginning to capture the attention of law enforcement leaders. Europol, the European policing group, issued its Policing in the Metaverse report in October, which urges law enforcement groups to consider ways in which existing criminal activities could spread to virtual worlds.

The report notes the metaverse will bring about new ways of interacting with others, as well as new virtual worlds to navigate. These innovations will not only lead to a range of issues to consider surrounding current criminal threats, but they may also prompt the arrival of new challenges. Europol’s report highlights a few key dangers for law enforcement groups to be aware of, such as:

Identity theft: The use of sensors, eye-tracking and face-tracking technologies means criminals could have access to a wider range of tools, allowing them to impersonate victims more convincingly. These stolen identities could even manipulate other users.
Money laundering: Cryptocurrencies are already being used in the metaverse for both legitimate and criminal activities. With platform-specific cryptocurrencies emerging, there could be new challenges to address regarding money laundering.
Ransomware: The increased importance of digital assets in the metaverse puts companies under increasing pressure to protect their IP. If companies lose assets in the XR landscape, this loss could lead to greater consequences, and issues of fraud.
Harassment: The report also examines the potential for real-life harassment and abuse spilling into the metaverse. Reports of people being sexually assaulted in digital environments have already begun to emerge. Europol warns virtual events could be just as impactful as those in the physical realm with increasingly realistic XR experiences.
Child protection: There’s also a concern to address around the concept of protecting children and vulnerable individuals. This new landscape could introduce new ways of grooming and virtually assaulting children.
The trouble with these potential problems is that current laws and regulations are inadequate for guiding law enforcement agencies. Experts like Europol believe enterprises will need to implement new solutions, help identify and report criminal activity, and serve justice in digital environments.

How Will Experts Police the Metaverse?
Policing the metaverse is unlikely to be a simple process. Even managing law enforcement issues on the current internet is relatively difficult. Some countries have already begun investing in new online policing strategies. For instance, Norway has its “Nettpatruljie” Internet patrols, which focuses on protecting various social media, streaming, and gaming platforms.

Many specialists believe in order to truly police the metaverse, law enforcement professionals will need to immerse themselves in this landscape. INTERPOL, which facilitates the worldwide cooperation of police entities, recently unveiled a metaverse specifically designed for law enforcement experts. The solution allows INTERPOL offices to interact with each other through avatars in VR, take training courses, and manage various forensic investigation tasks.

As the metaverse develops, Interpol is concerned lawbreakers, terrorists, and scammers will migrate more rapidly to virtual worlds to perpetuate various crimes such as data theft, phishing, and financial fraud. The group believes identifying these risks from the outset will allow groups to work with stakeholders to shape the necessary frameworks for future user protection.

However, Madan Oberoi, INTERPOL Director of Innovation and Technology says that police must first experience the metaverse to understand it.

Building a Safer Metaverse for the Future
Building a metaverse strategy for security and safety will remain a gradual process. However, experts believe existing knowledge will assist the process, along with years of fighting cyber threats on other systems.

Law enforcement agencies will also need to invest in metaverse experiences for officers, to ensure they can train and operate in the same environments as criminals. Law enforcement groups must also build partnerships with the main metaverse builders to set global standards for universal safety.

With law enforcement and developers working hand-in-hand, developers can embed metaverse platforms with AI tools and solutions to detect errant behaviour.

At the same time, educators will need to implement fresh training solutions to help law enforcement officers gain a deeper understanding of the threats faced in the metaverse. Numerous players, from the brands using the metaverse to the developers creating it, will need to work alongside policing entities to ensure the future of Web 3.0 is safe.


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