Augmented Reality Law, Privacy, and Ethics: Law, Society, and Emerging AR Technologies

Michael Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger

Johannes Gutenberg – Universität Mainz, Mainz, Germany

Abstract: The goal of this article is to present a first list of ethical concerns that may arise from research and personal use of virtual reality (VR) and related technology, and to offer concrete recommendations for minimizing those risks. Many of the recommendations call for focused research initiatives. In the first part of the article, we discuss the relevant evidence from psychology that motivates our concerns. In Section “Plasticity in the Human Mind,” we cover some of the main results suggesting that one’s environment can influence one’s psychological states, as well as recent work on inducing illusions of embodiment. Then, in Section “Illusions of Embodiment and Their Lasting Effect,” we go on to discuss recent evidence indicating that immersion in VR can have psychological effects that last after leaving the virtual environment. In the second part of the article, we turn to the risks and recommendations. We begin, in Section “The Research Ethics of VR,” with the research ethics of VR, covering six main topics: the limits of experimental environments, informed consent, clinical risks, dual-use, online research, and a general point about the limitations of a code of conduct for research. Then, in Section “Risks for Individuals and Society,” we turn to the risks of VR for the general public, covering four main topics: long-term immersion, neglect of the social and physical environment, risky content, and privacy.