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How will the Metaverse Influence Business and Legal Processes?

  • 7/20/2022
  • Business of law
  • 3 min read

The metaverse is the latest hot topic when it comes to predictions for the next iteration of the Internet. Several big tech and gaming companies are investing in this space to build it up. It should be a best practice for organizations in every industry to monitor progress made in the coming months and years. So, what exactly is the metaverse? While still a working concept and not completely defined yet, the simplest description is an immersive, three-dimensional shared virtual space allowing users to interact with one another as if in person. But the metaverse is much more layered than this, and it will likely function as a standalone digital economy with open access for users to participate in the continuous evolution. Augmented reality, digital currencies, and other advanced technologies will fuel the metaverse.

Potential Business Applications, Challenges, and Risks

Some organizations have already started participating in the initial stages of the metaverse by opening banks, hosting virtual law firm offices, and creating retail strategies. There will be many opportunities in the future as this space evolves. Entering the metaverse will provide organizations much more than typical remote communication tools like video and text chat. Colleagues and clients can put on headsets and be taken directly into a virtual conference, meeting, or business transaction with individuals located across the globe. Interactions and visuals will be as if everyone involved was physically present via digital avatars.

While some will be hesitant to use the metaverse and adoption is difficult to predict, it is not going away and will undoubtedly affect internal processes, business dealings, case strategy, and more. Organizations should start thinking about the possibilities now to be better prepared for future challenges. Below are some predictions on how the metaverse will influence operations, strategy, and investments across different areas of the enterprise.

  1. Metaverse participants will need to revamp information governance programs. Organizations participating in the metaverse or that have business dealings involving data from the metaverse will need to create new information governance initiatives. There will be massive amounts of data relating to a single transaction or interaction in the metaverse. Think about how much technology will be involved in a virtual office meeting to create rooms, avatars, and more. While these interactions may prove beneficial, risks will emerge in terms of managing data and keeping compliant with various legal, contractual, and business obligations. Organizations must account for this when strategizing about whether to invest in the metaverse, creating data retention policies, classifying data, using cloud storage, and setting data protection protocols. While organizations should already be considering these factors in their information governance initiatives, the amount and type of data involved in the metaverse will require reevaluation and present new challenges.
  1. The legal community will be faced with new eDiscovery challenges and ethical obligations. Lawyers, legal service providers, and review teams should anticipate unique collection and review obstacles when data relevant to litigation or investigations resides in the metaverse. Challenges to prepare for include the need to use virtual reality (VR) headsets to view and analyze data, custodian identification, preservation mechanisms, and increased spoliation claims. Court decisions in this area will be instructive but it will be years before meaningful case law trends emerge.

For lawyers, ethics comes into play here as well as most states follow the American Bar Association’s stance on competence – that requires lawyers to stay abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. To avoid eDiscovery headaches in the future and remain ethical, best practices include metaverse and VR headset education and training, monitoring modern technologies used to power the metaverse, competitor analysis, and paying close attention to early case decisions.

  1. Cybersecurity risks will increase. With so many moving parts and layered tech needed in the metaverse, cybersecurity is a top concern. Hackers will look for vulnerabilities as this space evolves and new attack methods may begin to trend. Organizations transacting in the metaverse must elevate cyber risk analysis and may need to implement stronger security controls to protect consumer data, trade secrets, and other sensitive information. While emerging technologies always invoke the need to evaluate cyber risk and identify potential gaps, the metaverse delves into unchartered territory. Consulting with cyber experts would be prudent to gain insights on the best way to keep data secure in the metaverse and limit breach potential.
  1. Application of privacy regulations will get tricky. Comprehensive data privacy laws continue to pass around the globe. Data in the metaverse will invoke privacy concerns on a large scale as the tech used will collect biometric identifiers, health information, and other sensitive data. The amount of data organizations will be able to access will be greater than ever before. This can result in more targeted advertising, data sales, and storage needs.

How regulations will apply in the metaverse remains unclear. Which state or country’s privacy law will apply if a transaction or interaction occurs solely in the metaverse and that is the only place data is stored? Will regulators need to amend laws to account for application in the metaverse? Will they need to create entirely new metaverse-focused privacy laws? How will interoperability affect application and designating controllers? Complex questions like this will continue to surface as the metaverse grows and adoption spreads.

Conclusion

As the metaverse evolves, organizations will gain more clarity about responsibilities and risks. It may take a while to get there, and adoption could be more prevalent in certain industries. However, over time most organizations will encounter the metaverse in some manner. Key areas to monitor include business uses, integration capabilities, interoperability, technology used to power the space, breach trends, and eDiscovery case law. It will be interesting to see how the metaverse takes shape, plays a role in business matters, transforms strategies, and fosters collaboration on a new scale. Keeping informed and prepared will help organizations make smart investment decisions, analyze risks, stay competitive, and procure optimal benefits.

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