#1178: How the EU’s Metaverse Initiative May Bring XR Privacy Amendments for the AI Act, GDPR, or Digital Markets Act

There’s an upcoming Virtual World Initiative (aka the Metaverse Initiative) at the European Commission on May 31st, and I had a chance to get Florence G’sell’s thoughts on it. She’s a law professor in France teaching at the University of Lorraine and leads the Digital, Governance and Sovereignty Chair at Sciences Po. If anything, she believes that this initiative might highlight some gaps in the many relatively new regulations that span from the AI Act, Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, and that it may reveal some needed amendments for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We do a deep dive into some of the XR relevant provisions of the AI Act, and do a broad overview of the Fundamental Rights approach to technology policy development and that there may already be some foundational principles. She points out that the right to respect for mental integrity already currently exists within the EU’s Fundamental Charter of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.” But that the XR and neuro technologies may highlight new threats to these rights. The EU uses these human rights to help address technologies that provide systemic risks to fundamental rights.

We also talk about a failed effort by the EU Parliament in 2017 to provide “electronic personhood” status for autonomous robots / AI by

"creating a specific legal status for robots in the long run, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons responsible for making good any damage they may cause, and possibly applying electronic personality to cases where robots make autonomous decisions or otherwise interact with third parties independently."

G’sell believes that it’s just a matter of time before this issue comes up again, especially as we have the deployment of more consumer-grade AI systems that will inevitably have more and more autonomy over time. Before we have autonomous robots driven by AI, then we’ll for sure have the striving towards autonomous virtual beings within virtual spaces, and so this is another area to look out for as AI and XR technologies continue to merge over time.

Again, the EU technology regulations are a good 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ahead of where the United States is currently at, and so this conversation is a great overview of the underlying human rights foundations of tech policy development, but also some of the frontiers tech policy in the EU are around anti-trust, AI, privacy, and decentralized blockchain technologies. There’s a whole new set of regulations that have recently passed, and some like GDPR which are entering into the enforcement phase like the recent $400M decision against Meta by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission. Time will tell how effectively these EU regulations can be enforced, but they’re certainly starting to change the landscape of technology architectures in Silicon Valley, and we do a broad overview of the most recent rounds of legislation and how it might start to impact XR and the future of the Metaverse.

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Music: Fatality