The metaverse continues to grow, but it may be a while before it becomes the all-encompassing ecosystem it says it will become. With the likes of Zuckerberg expecting it to become where we spend more time than the real world, questions are already being raised about identity in the Web3 era. With the expectation of being completely engaged digitally, professionally and socially, the amount of data generated about who we are will be enormous. How that data is collected and used will be significant.
There is no doubt that businesses will turn to big data to capitalise and grow on opportunities when it comes to the metaverse. The metaverse is expected to be worth over $1,607 trillion by 2030. Anyone looking to use big data must maintain users' trust for the metaverse to be genuinely successful.
The expectation is that there will be vast numbers of avatars within the metaverse. Couple this with the growing number of digital currencies; these digital profiles and assets will all be linked to a user's real identity. While an avatar's role is to make your real identity anonymous, there are already rules to counter fraudulent activity within the metaverse.
As the metaverse continues to develop, transactions made in the metaverse will be through digital wallets connected to the metaverse, which could have "Know Your Customer" security measures.
Identifying which links to virtual assets is vital based on the metaverse landscape and the properties that can be bought and sold within it. With decentralisation as a critical driver for Web3, having correct identification will foster a safer digital environment within the metaverse. The volume of actions, interactions and behaviours will be huge, and so how credentials and profiles are governed in the future will be under scrutiny.
PROVING IDENTITY THROUGH DATA
Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox, spoke at an interview with Cointelegraph discussing how data and avatars will be used in the metaverse.
"Users will want to bring more than just the visual appearance of their avatar from one virtual world to another. They will also want to carry their online reputation, progression and achievements with them," Borget says. Demonstrating personal credentials through your data will allow people to build more creditability to their online identity.
"Users should be able to use all their data as proof of who they are online. This will contribute to defining an individual's true digital identity (or multiple ones since there can be many),"
Borget continues, "Even in DeFi, a crypto exchange can loan you more to buy land if you prove you actually spend time building and playing in the metaverse. And you don't want that data to be held in just one virtual world — in the true spirit of Web3; users shouldn't have to be locked in one walled-garden platform to carry out their history and reputation,"
The suggestion from Boget is massive. The idea that a digital footprint would be so strong within the metaverse that it could have the ability to be considered for loans on smart contracts based on our online behaviour is game-changing.
However, relying on big data to grow a digital-based identity is a complex prospect. Considering the key player within the metaverse is Facebook holding company Meta with previous concerns about how they have used user data, the idea of building an online identity will not appeal to everyone.
As businesses look to operate through the metaverse, the question of how much data can and should be accessible must be answered. The ability to see and understand vastly personal aspects of someone's life goes beyond a search history and into biological readings like blood pressure and other intimate information, which could all be exploited for marketing or political campaigns.
If selling data is to function in Web3 the way it currently is on social media platforms, then significantly more robust management will need to be in play. Failure to regulate access to big data will see the metaverse die out before it has a chance to come to fruition.
Creating a pathway to have ethically sourced data from the metaverse will be something which helps build trust. Examples like self-sovereign identity (SSI) can control the information surrounding the user's context within the metaverse. SSI could overcome data security concerns by allowing users to store whatever data they choose in a central database and determine what is shared.
Companies looking to build into the metaverse landscape must be completely transparent about how they use data and discuss identity. For the metaverse to survive, users must have control of their own data.