Report: Augmented Reality Challenges Privacy Norms

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Augmented reality technology’s presumed growth comes with some risks.

Augmented reality technologies will likely exacerbate existing privacy challenges facing the public, according to a report released this week by tech think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

The report posits that while augmented reality devices offer the public many potential benefits, they also “continuously collect, analyze and display personal data.” This continuous collection and fusion of various types of data—including from cellphones, smartwatches, security and body cameras, wearable devices and even sensors—creates entirely new privacy issues.

“Taken individually, the privacy concerns raised by AR are not necessarily new. However, AR amplifies some of the most pressing issues around digital privacy, and combines them in new ways to present novel concerns for bystander privacy in public space,” the report states.

Augmented reality is a relatively nascent technology across the federal government, though some agencies, including the Department of Defense, have existing implementations of the technology.  

The report provides numerous examples of potential uses—and abuses—of augmented reality, and concludes with five recommendations for lawmakers, policymakers and decision-makers regarding the technology:

  • Allow existing laws and regulations to address privacy concerns in public spaces.
  • Develop guidelines to inform transparency and choice measures protecting bystander privacy.
  • Develop standardized approaches to government AR procurement and use.
  • Ensure child protection measures encourage innovation while mitigating potential harms.
  • Encourage self-regulation and voluntary codes of conduct through a formal multi-stakeholder process.