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Solitude Lost? Preserving the Fourth Amendment in the Age of the Metaverse

Posted by on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Notes, Volume 26, Volume 26, Issue 3.

Kevin Cibak | 26 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 515 (2024)

The Metaverse—a virtual reality platform developed by social media giant Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook, Inc.)—promises to fundamentally alter the age-old structure of global society. Specifically, the Metaverse seeks to blend physical, virtual, and augmented realities together through a complex web of digital spaces, wearable technology, and technological synergy. Through its dual goals of “connecting people” and fostering a “feeling of presence” for Metaverse users, Meta may ultimately make virtual reality participation an unavoidable aspect of daily life. Yet despite the Metaverse’s broad implications for user privacy, the current protections afforded to consumers are wholly insufficient. The Fourth Amendment, a historic symbol of the United States’ commitment to individual privacy, is improperly equipped to restrain the probing reach of virtual reality. Moreover, current statutory safeguards, such as those provided in the Stored Communications Act (SCA), grant weak protections that are easily subverted. As a result, users operating in the Metaverse space—which could soon become an extension of the physical world—may be forced to relinquish their individual privacy.

This Note argues that such a future is both inconsistent with historic US values and patently unacceptable. To maintain the longstanding privacy protections that undergird the Fourth Amendment, this Note contemplates two distinct solutions with both judicial and legislative perspectives in mind: (1) that the Supreme Court extend its 2018 decision in Carpenter v. United States to provide Fourth Amendment protections to data collected through Metaverse interactions, or (2) that the US Congress amend the SCA to constrain warrantless access to Metaverse data.

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