This week Meta unveiled its Meta Quest Pro, a new VR headset priced around half the price of the pre-inflation mortgage payments. To glorify the headset’s $1500 price, Meta made some fun changes to its privacy policies, including an “Eye tracking privacy Notice.” It states that it will utilize eye-tracking information to “help Meta personalize your experiences and enhance Meta Quest.” Are they going to track eyes for advertisements? Let’s get deeper into this
It doesn’t explicitly state that Meta will use the information for marketing purposes; however, “personalizing the experience” is the standard privacy-related term for targeted advertisements. Meta executives have been clear about the policy if you have any concerns.
Eye tracking data can be utilized “in the interest of understanding whether people are interested in advertisements positively or negatively,” said Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, in an interview with the FT.
You can decide whether you’re happy with targeted advertisements; technology will take data collection to levels we’ve never seen before. Quest Pro isn’t just going to inform Meta about what you’re interested in; tracking your face and eyes will give the company new information about your feelings.
“We are aware that this type of information could be used to identify people’s feelings, specifically emotions such as anxiety or happiness,” said Ray Walsh. He is a researcher in digital privacy at ProPrivacy. “When you can observe someone look at an advertisement to buy a new watch, stare for 10 seconds, smile, and think about whether they can afford it, it’s giving more data than ever.”
Meta has already created an array of technologies to serve these needs. Meta applied for patents on an apparatus to “adapts multimedia content” by analyzing facial expressions in January. It has been experimenting with capturing and manipulating people’s emotions for over 10 years. In January, it filed for patents on an electronic eyeball.
Despite the public’s privacy concerns regarding Meta, It could be difficult for those who utilize the company’s products to avoid activating the eye tracking feature due to the things they allow your avatar to perform.
“If Meta is successful, there’ll be a stigma that comes to the denial of that information,” ProPrivacy’s Walsh said. “You do not wish to appear as the sole person looking like a slack-faced zombie in a virtual space filled with people smiling and looking down.”
There are currently ads on display in Horizon Worlds, the company’s initial version in the Metaverse. Since Meta’s two-dimensional business model is so dependent on ads, the introduction of ads is likely. The company now offers some creators the opportunity to earn money from their time on Horizon Worlds by selling digital products.
Eye-tracking data can be used to analyze what you’re planning to buy. You might spend an extra few seconds looking at a costly digital fedora, and the company offers you a discount voucher one hour later. But analyzing your emotional state opens an entirely new avenue for targeted advertisements.
Digital marketing is about presenting the correct advertisement at the right time. Walsh suggests that advertisers can create campaigns using content specifically designed to appeal to people who feel unhappy or more positive advertisements for happy people.
There are specific rules that companies must be aware of when they’re monitoring your body, as opposed to watching every single touch you make on your phone, for which there are a few US regulations.
Many states have passed biometrics laws regulating information associated with physical traits. The most important rule is Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which requires businesses to seek your permission before taking or processing biometric information.
It’s perhaps the nation’s most robust privacy law, granting individuals the right to sue companies for breaching the law. Most other state laws allow regulators to take action and enforce the law, making enforcement harder. However, Google, Meta, Snap, and others have all settled BIPA lawsuits with several hundred million dollars.
Meta has a poor history of privacy for facial recognition. Millions of Facebook users did not have a privacy setting that allowed them to disable facial recognition for more than two years until Meta could fix the issue. Last year, meta made a comical victory when it removed the Facebook facial recognition functions and erased around one billion prints of faces.
However, the company hasn’t made any promises to end the use of facial recognition data. Now we’re with a new, shiny product that can measure the windows that lead to your soul. There is a question, however, about what Meta will do with the information once you have handed the data over.