Augmented Reality and its Impact on the Internet, Security, and Privacy


By Mary Lynne Nielsen, Global Operations and Outreach Program Director, IEEE Standards Association

Recently, I had the opportunity to lead networking sessions at Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2015. I interacted with conference attendees to explore the challenges and opportunities facing the evolution of the Internet. Now in its sixth year, AWE is dedicated to exploring technology that turns ordinary experiences into the extraordinary and empowers people to be better at anything they do in work and life. Nearly 3000 people from the augmented and virtual reality, wearable tech, and Internet of Things spaces attended this year’s event.

Technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) intersect with the Internet not only from a usage standpoint, but also from a delivery and information-gathering perspective. Mobile AR technology is poised to explode into the mainstream, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 96% over the next five years. Blending online and offline personal data, AR has enormous potential to enhance a wide spectrum of human activities, including economic, cultural and social (such as blending social media live streams into AR experiences). But AR also has the potential to compromise a spectrum of human values. It raises privacy and security concerns that are similar to other technologies. AR’s capacity for “constant” recording of data (potentially everything a user is doing), in addition to its ability to overlay information on top of physical reality, raises interesting and unique issues that go beyond current issues of privacy, free speech, and discrimination.

At AWE 2015, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) held two networking sessions to explore and discuss these impacts and how to address them so AR can realize its full potential. It was wonderful to see the interest and engagement in this subject. Several attendees admitted that they hadn’t really fully considered the policy implications of AR, but that they would be keeping that in mind as they moved forward in their advancements in this field. Others were excited to hear about IEEE’s goal of bringing technologists closer together with policy makers to reduce the gap between technology and policy, especially as technology progresses and emerging technologies enter our lives.

Of particular interest were the topics of cybersecurity and privacy. Those who joined us at the networking sessions concurred that security needed to be a major factor for AR, while privacy could be challenged by users who openly share personal information in order to gain ease of use or maximum convenience of a product or service. Participants also supported transparency as a major aim in the privacy area. While we were not able to come up with answers immediately, IEEE SA is committed to continuing the dialogue as we engage those working in emerging technology spaces in IEEE initiatives.

AR is just one of the proliferation of technologies that are increasingly intersecting with the Internet. The IEEE Internet Initiative will continue to reach out to those technologies to garner their input on the evolving question of Internet governance and the related areas of privacy and security.

And I’d also like to reach out to you for your thoughts and ideas on the intersections between AR and the Internet, cybersecurity, and privacy. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

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