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EU Metaverse Strategy to Consider Rights, Privacy, and Competition


Although the metaverse strategy from the European Commission, which was supposed to be released next week, has been delayed and won’t have any real teeth, there are legitimate concerns about how virtual worlds will handle real-world issues like privacy, technology standards, and property rights.

A strategy document on virtual worlds has been delayed as long as it possibly be since it was first proposed by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as part of an annual address in September. Next Tuesday is the deadline for EU commissioners to approve it; if they waited any longer, they would have to start preparing for the upcoming State of the EU speech.

The commission has said in the past that the proposal won’t be legislative, examining the policy concerns rather than putting out a formal law. However, it may pave the path for more forceful action in the future.

According to Patrick Grady, editor of the website and research effort Metaverse EU, which is situated in Brussels, the metaverse strategy is “the start of something, it sets the agenda.” The machine actually doesn’t stop once it starts moving.

Grady, who also oversees the technology practice at the consulting firm Fourtold, cites the commission’s 2018 strategy on artificial intelligence, which, despite promising little more than a stakeholder alliance and a reinterpretation of liability rules, proved to be a sign of things to come and led to the passage of an AI bill in 2021.

That presents opportunities as well as threats. The sector frequently welcomes a clear regulatory framework, although EU regulations in fields like AI have generated debate. There is always the possibility of unintended consequences, as demonstrated by the recent Data Act of the EU, which is ostensibly concerned with regulating data collected by connected devices like vehicles or refrigerators but which some Web3 proponents fear might essentially make smart contracts illegal.

EU principles

The commission has stated that “European values” will need to be incorporated into the metaverse, with officials citing issues like discrimination, safety, and data controls as examples. A blog post by Commissioner Thierry Breton and a follow-up commission consultation hinted at a more pressing concern for the EU: that Web3 would, like its predecessor, be controlled by large companies that stifle competition.

There might be some recognizable faces there. As it shifts toward a more immersive experience, Facebook has rebranded as Meta (META), and Apple’s (AAPL) entry into the market might have a significant impact.

Aleksandra Kozik, the EU Public Policy Director for Meta, was cross-examined by MPs during a hearing in April about issues like the use of organized crime and discrimination as well as the effect of technology on jobs.

“The metaverse is not one single product that will be built by one company,” Kozik told members of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. “It is a constellation of platforms, technologies and products that will be built by many different stakeholders, by companies big and small.”

Given that it has frequently criticized Meta for attempting to be the brightest, if not the only, star in its firmament, the commission may be dubious of such comparisons. Grady notes that grammar may provide a window into the EU executive’s true thinking.

The idea behind the metaverse is to be a one, unbroken area, similar to how the internet is. “Siloed metaverses is almost the situation the EU’s trying to avoid,” Grady added.

The commission’s own study, however, discusses virtual worlds in the plural, implying that Meta may be one of several distinct walled gardens, whereas Breton discusses both the metaverse and various metaverses.

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About MahKa

MahKa loves exploring the decentralized world. She writes about NFTs, the metaverse, Web3 and similar topics.

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