Almost everyone has heard the term “Metaverse,” and many are aware of Facebook’s bold rebranding to the name “Meta.” We recently studied the Metaverse concept envisioned by Matthew Ball in his book, “The Metaverse” and considered the concept of identity in that virtual environment. Ball is a respected subject matter expert and attributes the Metaverse term to the author Neil Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. Stephenson described the Metaverse as “a persistent virtual world that reached, interacted with, and affected nearly every part of human existence.”
Ball acknowledges different concepts and definitions, but offers his as, “A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.” Like Stephenson’s, Ball’s definition connects concepts of property, ownership, and rights across both real and (multiple) virtual worlds. And this brings us to the challenge of Digital Identity. If there’s continuity of data, then just like in the real world where an identity is defined by persistent attributes (SSN, residence location, driver’s license number, passport number, property ownership, etc.), we must have persistent attributes for an avatar operating in a dynamically evolving world in the Metaverse. Imagine your avatar (or perhaps multiple avatars representing you) making purchases at a virtual store on one of multiple virtual worlds that might exist.
As Stephenson notes, “This is less of a problem when virtual worlds are “games,” but for human society to shift in a meaningful way into virtual spaces (i.e., for education, work, healthcare), what we do in these spaces must reliably endure…” Imagine an avatar engaged in a romantic relationship or getting married? How do the actions spill into the real world? How will we define the identity attributes of who made a purchase, who spoke certain words, or who committed a crime? Perhaps as importantly who will define the attributes, and what privacy protections (or exploitation risks) might we expect in environments created by predominantly gaming megafirms?
Advanced Onion (AO) has been in the People Analytics business since 2011 and recognizes the criticality of identity protection. We’re developing leading edge solutions to evaluate individual and business risks and lead in Supply Chain Trust, objectively and reliably.