xr-ethics-manifesto-title
This is an XR Ethics Manifesto that I presented at Greenlight’s XR Strategy Conference on October 18, 2019. This is the culmination of seven focused months of panel discussions, interviews, and talks exploring many of the nuances of ethics and privacy in virtual and augmented reality. It’s a distillation of my talk that I gave at AWE on the ethical & moral dilemmas of mixed reality, and I also started to draw up more of a prescriptive ethical framework that gives an ideal vision for a number of different contexts. It’s impossible to implement a perfect solution as there are often tradeoffs with other principles, which is what makes privacy engineering such a difficult discipline to work in, especially when the harms caused are operating at a collective level that have many other cultural, economic, and legal inputs. And this talk will hopefully be the start of a conversation to further refine these ethical principles, and expand them as the technologies continue to rapidly evolve and change.

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unity-ar-ad

tony-parisi
Tony Parisi is the Head of AR/VR Ad Strategy at Unity Technologies, and he’s committing to taking an ethical approach to advertising. Much of the advertising at Unity is done within the context of a mobile game, and so there is less pressure to fingerprint and profile individual users. I talked to Parisi about how he draws the line of what to track and what not to track, and he said that currently they’re tracking very little of individual users and rather focus on embedding ads within the context of a game. In free-to-play games, players are gated with ads that they have to watch in order to get back to their game, which means that they have an extraordinarily high completion rate of their ad units.

I also talked to Parisi about his efforts in augmented reality advertising, and how a lot of advertising agencies are being asked to define their AR strategy now that AR Kit and AR Core are being deployed on millions of phones and tablets. There is more and more of a market to explore what’s possible with AR ads, and he shares some of the highlights and types of AR ads that are working well. There’s more and more ways that immersive storytelling are starting to be integrated within the advertising space, and battery draining intensity of AR is less of concern with these short-form experiences that are also limited to around 5 MB in size. It’s still relatively new medium and communications modality, and so Parisi is spending a lot of time networking and educating advertising agencies in New York City.

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w3c-strategy

wendy-seltzer
Wendy Seltzer is the Lead Strategist and Counsel for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and she says that the concerns of privacy and security on the web have been taking up a lot of her time lately. I had a chance to talk to her at Mozilla’s View Source Conference in Amsterdam where she shared some of the highlights from the latest technical plenary (TPAC) meeting for the W3C including threat modeling for privacy and security, blocking third-party trackers, differential privacy, curtailing active and passive fingerprinting, and the diversity of approaches that the different browser vendors are taking to privacy on the web. Seltzer is concerned about how to help make the web a trustworthy platform, and to help explore some of the underlying economic business models by providing new web payments infrastructure. She also says that the immersive web will introduce even more issues to help provide a layer of privacy and security, especially when it comes to ensuring that any payments are going to the intended first-party origin. She also says that the level of privacy invasion with immersive tech could be enormous if they don’t get it right.

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ethical-web-principles

dan-applequistThe W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) published a set of Ethical Web Principles on May 30, 2019 in order to provide an ethical framework when evaluating new standards. The TAG group doesn’t have any formal power in the W3C, but their recommendations are meant to help new emerging web standards see if there are any ethical blindspots in new and emerging web standards and protocols.

I had a chance to talk to one of the editors of these ethical web principles, Daniel Appelquist, who is the Lead Developer Advocate on the Samsung Internet Browser team. We talk about the evolution of these ethical web principles, and how it’s already been used to help flag that the WebXR specification needs to try to make the accessibility concerns for immersive tech more of a priority. There is a W3C Inclusive Design for Immersive Web standards workshop happening in Seattle on November 5th & 6th in order to see how the accessibility needs can be better addressed by the WebXR specification. Appelquist also said that the Samsung Internet Browser team was committed to delivering the WebXR spec by the second quarter of 2020 within the Samsung Internet Browser.

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privacy-and-the-web1

selena-deckelmann
Selena Deckelmann
is the Senior Director of Firefox Browser Engineering, and she gave a great talk at Mozilla’s View Source conference titled “Our privacy and the web” that covered a lot of the work that she’s been doing to protect user privacy. Privacy & security is a hot topic with the W3C standards body as well as the browser vendors as there have been many ethical transgressions with how much surveillance capitalism has eroded user privacy. Deckelmann emphasizes that privacy and surveillance are inversely proportional, and so in order to increase the amount of privacy on the web then all of the browser vendors are trying to curtail third-party tracking, fingerprinting, and trying to make the open web a safe place to travel.

I had a chance to talk with Deckelmann at the View Source Conference to get a sense of what type of things that she’s working on in order to implement a privacy-first architecture as well as some of the privacy engineering tradeoffs that she has to navigate. As we move into the immersive web, then there will be even more privacy and security implications that have yet to be solved. But hopefully by exploring some of the lessons learned from the 2D open web, then the immersive web will have a stronger foundation to build upon with it comes to implementing a privacy-first architecture.

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making-ethical-decisions-for-the-immersive-web

diane-hosfelt2
Mozilla’s Diane Hosfelt is the Privacy and Security Lead on Mozilla‚Äôs Mixed Reality Team, and I had a chance to sit down with her again a two months after our SIGGRAPH panel discussion. Hosfelt has been spending a lot of time writing academic papers looking at privacy on the immersive web, including this piece she posted in May titled “Making ethical decisions for the immersive web.” I sat down with Hosfelt at Mozilla’s View Source conference in Amsterdam on October 1st in order to get some updates on her latest work on helping to define the landscape for privacy on the immersive web.

She talks about some of the legal frameworks for privacy, including some of the cultural differences between privacy law in the United States compared to the UK and other countries around the world. She also talks quite a bit about this concept of “privacy engineering,” which is a relatively new discipline that tries to look at the intersection between technical architectures, public policy, and the sociological impacts of technology on civil liberties. She shares some of her takeaways from the new 2019 USENIX Conference on Privacy Engineering Practice and Respect that she attended in August including that privacy engineering is hard, because there are no perfect solutions and it’s an emerging discipline that’s hard to connect the dots between technological implementation and sociological impact and potential harms caused.

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siggraph-panel
At the VR Privacy Summit in November 2018, I met a number of privacy engineers who were actively implementing privacy-first architectures. I wanted to bring together some a group of these forward-thinking privacy architects together for a more technical panel discussion at SIGGRAPH in order to share some of the insights and open questions and problems yet to be fully resolved. Here are the panelists that I brought together for this discussion:

This is the first time that Magic Leap talked about some of their privacy-first architecture philosophy, and I’m really impressed with how seriously they’re taking the ethical implications of mixed reality. Beck cited the eight Fair Information Practice Principles as a key document that helps them operationalize their privacy practices at Magic Leap. Miesnieks wrote an article for Tech Crunch titled “AR will mean dystopia if we don’t act today,” which lays out what’s at stake when it comes to the future of the AR Cloud. Mozilla’s Diane Hosfelt wrote a paper in May titled “Making ethical decisions for the immersive web,” which gives a lot of great context for privacy engineering for the immersive web. And Samantha Matthews Chase has been working with helping form the W3C standards for Decentralized Identifiers and self-sovereign identity, and previously participated on panel looking at how blockchain technologies could be used with immersive tech to help people take more control over their data.

A big take away from this panel is that Privacy in XR is Hard, but it’s definitely worth trying to come up with ethical frameworks that can help provide some best practices.

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eff

danny-obrien
Danny O’Brien is the Director of Strategy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been around since 1990. He describes it as the ACLU for geeks on the Internet as they’re made up of technologists, activists, and lawyers who are trying to preserve our civil liberties in digital spaces. I had a chance to sit down with O’Brien at the Decentralized Web Camp in July where we talked about the state of civil liberties online covering topics like encryption battles, the dynamics of decentralization, the balance between freedom and security, their approach to policy and laws, anti-money laundering challenges for cryptocurrency, challenging government surveillance, and the dilemmas faced by the centralization of power with companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

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awe-kent-bye-talk
The Virtual World Society provided me an opportunity to give a main stage talk at Augmented World Expo on the Ethical and Moral Dilemmas of Mixed Reality. I tried to lay out as many of the ethical implications of XR as I could in this talk after talking to hundreds of people about XR over the past five years. I presented this on Friday, May 31, 2019, and I would use the basic structure described in this talk for my XR Ethics Manifesto talk given on October 18th, 2019.

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neurosity-bci

sophia-batchelor
Sophia Batchelor is a recent neuroscientist graduate from UC Berkeley who focused on immersive technologies and neuroethics. We talk about the power of XR for creating new memories, the moral implications of experiential design when XR can be so salient, the bioethics implications of XR including the including the types of sensitive information that can be extrapolated from biometric data, and the need for XR R&D teams to have more ethicists on staff. We also talk about the emerging field of brain computer interfaces, and the privacy implications of being able to read someone’s thoughts. Batchelor talks about some of the privacy architectural decisions of BCI start-up Neurosity, which she announced after AWE that she took as job there as the neuroscientist in residence.

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