VR/AR Privacy Concerns Emerging with the Field’s Development


As virtual reality and augmented reality technology has progressed, the risks associated with them have expanded far beyond vertigo, headaches and possibly wandering into traffic. There’s also the threat of online crime and compromised privacy. Experts are weighing in on how users can stay safe while using VR and AR technology.

Virtual reality places users in an immersive digital environment, typically through the use of goggles or helmets. Augmented reality, on the other hand, often takes the real world—as seen through a cellphone camera, for example—and overlays it with digital enhancements, like road signs or Pokemon characters.

Once just figments of the imagination, these are now real products that have penetrated modern households. But the public fascination with these technologies hasn’t kept pace with their potential security and privacy dangers.

Practice Optimal Safety When Using the Internet in Any Respect

As with many services these days, AR and VR often come with disclaimers and terms of service that users may be tempted to click past or ignore. It should go without saying, but don’t disclose any information that is too personal or doesn’t need to be disclosed. It is one thing to set up an account with your email, but don’t set up your credit card unless you are explicitly purchasing something.

If you must supply sensitive information, using a VPN router can protect you from having that information compromised. Advanced encryption and an altered IP address work together to keep your identity and data private. With developments in AR and VR, the VPN model will likely expand within these tech realities as well. Remember, different kinds of data mean new privacy risks.  

Pay Attention to the AR and VR Industry


According to advisory firm Digi-Capital, the AR/VR market will hit $108 billion by 2021. This number also will most likely include the security software that should improve along with the development of this industry.

The AR and VR market is expanding into health care, sports, education, and more, industries where privacy and security are often paramount. Professionals in these fields will need to remain educated and proactive when thinking of their information security. 

Transparency in AR and VR

These emerging technologies raise questions about the privacy of the users. How are these companies going to secure the information gathered from their users? The companies will have to be transparent on how they use their data and where the data is stored. China, for example, requires foreign companies to store user data locally with Chinese tech partners, such as China Telecom and Tencent. This arrangement entails a large degree of government interference and monitoring. Even if the AR or VR company maintains a decent privacy policy, an open backdoor puts users’ data at risk.

Things are equally alarming in America. Last year we saw Facebook’s reputation and credibility tarnished over data privacy breaches, while Marriott International reported that over 500 million users were impacted in a data leak. Cases like this are a nightmare in all industries, and these AR and VR companies are searching for ways to manage their data ethically and safely. Potential privacy issues can singlehandedly alter a company’s image forever, which is why this field is full of companies taking their time to learn the data privacy ropes.

What are AR and VR Companies Doing for Privacy?

The creepy thing to think about is that these programs have access to the video and audio feed of the user’s surroundings. This is a level of access never before seen in tech or any other industry.

Some of the larger companies working with AR and VR are: Windows Mixed Reality, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear VR. All of these programs have privacy policies available to users on their websites. The format or wording might differ from brand to brand, but ultimately they are all the same.

The privacy policies acknowledge that they will share data with third-party companies. This may include standard information such as statistics on when people are playing games, their geographic location and how they interact with the system. This information is already being collected by most apps and websites, so it isn’t that invasive. Much of it is used for marketing. But it could extend much further, into anything and everything the device collects, and many users who aren’t reading the fine print would never notice.

In a perfect world, these privacy policies would improve and become more explicit over time, as more people begin purchasing AR and VR products. But for now, the guidelines are often maddeningly vague, and many are generic companywide policies that don’t specifically mention VR and AR privacy at all, such as those from HTC and Samsung.

It’s not a perfect world, despite the tremendous potential of VR and AR technology. So in this reality, be wary. You can’t count on tech companies to keep your data safe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar