Information Technology and Ethics/Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are revolutionizing multiple industries by providing immersive and interactive experiences that enhance learning, optimize medical procedures, transform retail experiences, and broaden the horizons of entertainment. These technologies utilize digital overlays and simulated environments to provide users with real-time information and experiences that are both captivating and educational. This enhances efficiency and effectiveness in a wide range of tasks, from intricate surgical procedures to basic retail shopping.

Common Applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are becoming more prevalent in different industries, providing distinct applications that enhance experiences and increase efficiencies.



VR in education facilitates the creation of immersive learning environments, enabling students to closely examine historical events, remote planets, or intricate biological processes. This not only enhances the learning experience but also facilitates the retention and comprehension of intricate subjects. Augmented reality (AR) superimposes digital information onto the physical world, allowing students to access interactive and captivating educational content within their actual learning environments.



Healthcare has also seen development here. Surgeons utilize augmented reality to achieve greater accuracy during surgical procedures by superimposing vital patient information and images directly onto their visual field. Virtual reality is utilized in therapy to assist patients in overcoming phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to facilitate physical rehabilitation by providing controlled and secure simulation environments.



The domains of gaming and entertainment are widely acknowledged as the most prominent fields where virtual reality and augmented reality find their applications. Virtual reality (VR) offers a completely immersive experience that transports users into captivating and interactive virtual environments. Augmented reality (AR) games, such as Pokémon Go, incorporate digital components into the physical world, resulting in an interactive and captivating gaming experience that spans real-world settings.



AR revolutionizes shopping experiences in the retail industry by enabling customers to preview products in their personal environment prior to making a purchase. For instance, furniture retailers employ augmented reality (AR) technology to allow customers to visualize how a particular piece of furniture would appear in their living room. This capability aids in facilitating more informed and advantageous buying choices.

Security Concerns


Instances of Data Interception and Breaches


Given the nature of VR and AR technologies, it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with transmitting sensitive data over networks. These technologies are vulnerable to interception and breaches. The data can encompass personal identification details, location data, biometric data, and even payment information. Exploiting vulnerabilities in the transmission channels or software can allow cyber attackers to gain access to this data, resulting in risks such as identity theft, financial fraud, and unauthorized tracking.

Incidents of Malware and Ransomware Attacks


Malware and ransomware pose significant threats to VR and AR systems, causing potential harm. As an example, due to the interactive nature of these platforms, malware has the ability to manipulate VR/AR environments in ways that can be harmful. This includes introducing deceptive elements or malicious triggers. Ransomware has the potential to prevent users from accessing their VR/AR devices or encrypt their personal data, requiring payment in order to regain access or ensure security.

Unauthorized Access to an Account


A number of VR and AR applications necessitate user accounts to securely store personal preferences, game progress, and other sensitive information. Unauthorized access to accounts can lead to various consequences, such as virtual identity theft, unauthorized purchases, or intrusion into private virtual spaces.

Concerns Regarding Physical Safety


Security vulnerabilities in VR and AR applications may pose potential risks to physical safety. Take, for instance, if an AR mapping application falls into the wrong hands, it has the potential to lead users astray to hazardous locations. In virtual reality, systems that are not well-designed or have been compromised may not accurately map real-world environments. This can be dangerous as users may not be aware of their actual surroundings, potentially resulting in physical injuries.

Invasion of Privacy through Surveillance


Both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to be utilized for surveillance purposes. Continuous monitoring capabilities can be achieved through unauthorized access to cameras, microphones, or real-time location tracking features in these devices. There is a potential for a significant invasion of privacy, where individuals' actions in both virtual and real worlds could be tracked and recorded.

Insufficient User Authentication


A significant issue with numerous VR and AR systems is the lack of strong authentication mechanisms, resulting in the potential for unauthorized access and misuse. Insufficient password systems or the absence of multi-factor authentication can create vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by malicious actors to gain unauthorized access to devices and the networks they are connected to. Given the distinct interaction models of VR and AR devices, conventional security measures may prove insufficient. This calls for the implementation of novel forms of authentication, such as biometric or behavior-based methods.



Deepfakes pose a notable and growing concern within the realm of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, specifically in regards to security and privacy. Deepfakes utilize advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to produce authentic-looking images, videos, and audio recordings. This technology has the potential to be seamlessly integrated into VR and AR environments, which may give rise to a number of significant concerns:

False Information and Trickery


In VR and AR, deepfakes have the ability to generate lifelike avatars or environments that are virtually identical to real ones. There is a risk of spreading misinformation or misleading users into thinking they are interacting with authentic entities or situations. As an example, a deepfake has the ability to create a virtual reality scenario where a well-known person or someone close to you is simulated. This can have an impact on how users perceive and behave, as they are influenced by these deceptive portrayals.

Privacy Violations:


Deepfakes have the potential to infringe upon an individual's privacy by impersonating them without their consent. In the realm of VR and AR, there is the possibility of recreating a person's appearance and voice during virtual meetings or social interactions. This could potentially result in negative consequences such as harm to one's reputation or personal well-being.

Privacy Concerns


Many user technologies necessitate the gathering of substantial personal data, encompassing biometric information, location data, and comprehensive records of user interactions within virtual environments. The extensive amount of data collected raises various privacy concerns, such as the potential exposure of personal information, surveillance and tracking, and worries about how the data is used and shared.

Data Collection


Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have the potential to gather sensitive personal data due to their features and capabilities. Personalized and immersive experiences often require the use of biometric data, including eye movements, facial expressions, and voice samples. As an illustration, the utilization of eye-tracking technology has the potential to enhance the virtual reality experience by dynamically adjusting the focus and perspective according to the user's gaze. Nevertheless, this information can provide valuable insights into an individual's inclinations, objectives, well-being, and other aspects.

There is a risk that arises when sensitive information is not properly protected, which could potentially lead to unauthorized parties gaining access to it or intercepting it. Instances of cybersecurity breaches can result in the exposure of personal data, which in turn can lead to various negative consequences such as identity theft, financial fraud, and potential risks to personal safety. Developers and providers of VR and AR must prioritize data security by encrypting data, implementing strong access controls, and conducting regular security audits.

Surveillance and Tracking


The ongoing tracking capabilities of VR and AR can also be used for less reputable purposes. As an example, the use of location tracking in various AR applications, such as navigation tools or location-based games, can potentially lead to unauthorized monitoring of a user's movements. In a similar vein, VR platforms have the ability to monitor and analyze user behavior and interactions within a virtual environment, allowing for the creation of comprehensive profiles of individual activities.

This information holds value for both businesses seeking to customize marketing strategies or create new products, as well as government organizations focused on surveillance. There is a significant potential for misuse, as these technologies have the ability to systematically infringe on individual privacy rights. There is valid reason for concern, as instances of technology being utilized for surveillance by various entities have been extensively documented worldwide.

Information Usage and Sharing


There is a significant concern regarding the utilization and sharing of collected data. The extensive information gathered by VR and AR technologies is highly valuable for improving user experience and is also sought after by advertisers and data brokers. It is common for users to lack clear information or control over the usage and sale of their data.

It is crucial to have clear and open communication regarding data usage policies and practices. It is important to ensure that users have access to easily understandable and readily available information regarding the collection, usage, sharing, and storage of their data. Incorporating privacy-enhancing technologies like data anonymization and minimization can be effective in reducing the potential risks related to data sharing and retention.

Security Enhancements


Updated Encryption Methods


Ensuring the security of data transmitted between devices and servers involved in VR and AR systems is of utmost importance. By employing cutting-edge encryption standards, data of all types - be it biometric, personal, or operational - is safeguarded against interception and unauthorized access. As an example, the utilization of end-to-end encryption can provide a safeguard for communication channels within VR and AR platforms, rendering it exceedingly challenging for unauthorized individuals to decipher the data.

Strong Authentication Mechanisms


In order to ensure that only authorized individuals can gain access, it is crucial for VR and AR devices to include robust authentication systems that require multiple factors for verification. This could involve a mix of factors that the user is familiar with (passwords), possesses (a mobile device), and embodies (biometric data like fingerprints, facial recognition, or voice patterns). These layers greatly minimize the chances of account hijacking and unauthorized access.

Incorporating Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is also recommended in enhancing security in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) systems. Adding an extra layer of security, 2FA ensures that users must provide two different authentication factors to verify their identity before they can access their accounts or devices. This approach greatly reduces the chances of unauthorized access, even if one element, such as a password, is compromised.

Integrating 2FA into VR and AR systems not only boosts security, but also aligns with the ongoing imperative to safeguard ever more advanced and personal digital experiences. With the continuous advancement and integration of VR and AR technologies into our daily lives, it is becoming increasingly important to implement strong security measures such as 2FA. These measures are essential for effectively protecting users and their valuable data.

Latest Firmware update


Staying current with the most recent software updates is essential for maintaining VR and AR systems. These updates frequently include fixes for identified vulnerabilities that could be targeted by malicious individuals. It is important for developers to prioritize automatic and seamless updates, which will alleviate the user's responsibilities and guarantee that all devices are equipped with the latest secure software version.

Technologies that Enhance Privacy


Integrating technologies that prioritize user privacy can have a significant impact. Methods such as data anonymization, which involves removing personal identifiers from the data, and data minimization, which focuses on collecting only the essential amount of data, can be effective in safeguarding user privacy. These technologies provide an added layer of security, making it difficult to trace any potential data breaches back to specific users.

Best Practices


It is highly recommended for VR and AR developers to prioritize secure coding practices and consistently conduct security audits and testing during the entire application development process. This involves conducting threat modeling, code reviews, and penetration testing to detect and address potential security vulnerabilities prior to the software being implemented. Emphasizing the importance of security right from the start is crucial when adopting a 'security by design' approach.

Ensuring the Security of Hardware


Given the nature of VR and AR devices as standalone systems, ensuring the security of both the hardware and software is of utmost importance. This involves the development of tamper-resistant devices and the utilization of secure elements for data storage. Utilizing hardware-based security features can establish a robust basis for ensuring the security of the entire system.

Laws and Governance


The legal and regulatory landscape surrounding consumer Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies is constantly changing, mirroring the fast-paced advancements in these fields. There are no dedicated federal laws specifically for VR and AR. However, existing laws and regulations can be applied to address issues that may arise from the use of these technologies. These are some important areas of law and regulation that have an impact on consumer VR and AR:

Privacy and Data Protection

  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): This act protects children under the age of 13 in the digital space. VR and AR applications targeting children must comply with COPPA regulations, which include obtaining parental consent before collecting personal information.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): While federal law is general, some states like California have taken more specific actions. CCPA gives consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them. This includes data collected through VR and AR platforms.

Consumer Protection Laws

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC regulates deceptive and unfair business practices. This encompasses advertising claims made by VR and AR products, ensuring that consumers are not misled about the capabilities or safety of these technologies.

Intellectual Property Rights

  • Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks: These are crucial for protecting the content created for VR and AR environments, including software, games, and other multimedia content.

Accessibility Regulations

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): As VR and AR technologies become more prevalent, their compliance with ADA standards will be critical to ensure that these technologies are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

Health and Safety Regulations

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): This agency could become involved if VR and AR devices are found to pose health risks, such as vision problems, psychological effects, or physical injuries due to prolonged use.

Emerging Legislation

  • Biometric Information Privacy Laws: Some states, like Illinois with its Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), regulate the collection and storage of biometric data, which can include data gathered by VR and AR devices like facial recognition and eye-tracking.

Sector-Specific Regulations

  • Educational and Healthcare Applications: VR and AR applications used in education and healthcare settings may be subject to additional regulations concerning student privacy laws (like FERPA in the U.S.) and health information privacy protections under HIPAA.


  1. Parekh, P., Patel, S., Patel, N., & Shah, M. (2020). Systematic review and meta-analysis of augmented reality in medicine, retail, and games. Visual computing for industry, biomedicine, and art, 3, 1-20.
  2. Billewar, S. R., Jadhav, K., Sriram, V. P., Arun, D. A., Mohd Abdul, S., Gulati, K., & Bhasin, D. N. K. K. (2022). The rise of 3D E-Commerce: the online shopping gets real with virtual reality and augmented reality during COVID-19. World Journal of Engineering, 19(2), 244-253. "
  3. Liarokapis, F. (2006). An exploration from virtual to augmented reality gaming. Simulation & Gaming, 37(4), 507-533.
  4. Al-Ansi, A. M., Jaboob, M., Garad, A., & Al-Ansi, A. (2023). Analyzing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) recent development in education. Social Sciences & Humanities Open, 8(1), 100532.
  5. Ryan Calo, Tamara Denning, Batya Friedman, Tadayoshi Kohno, Lassana Magassa, Emily McReynolds, Bryce Newell, Franziska Roesner, and Jesse Woo. Augmented Reality: A Technology and Policy Primer. Technical report, Tech Policy Lab, University of Washington, 2015.
  6. Langfinger, M., Schneider, M., Stricker, D., & Schotten, H. D. (2017, July). Addressing security challenges in industrial augmented reality systems. In 2017 IEEE 15th international conference on industrial informatics (INDIN) (pp. 299-304). IEEE.
  7. Lebeck, K., Ruth, K., Kohno, T., & Roesner, F. (2018, May). Towards security and privacy for multi-user augmented reality: Foundations with end users. In 2018 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP) (pp. 392-408). IEEE.
  8. David Hopee, ‘A Deep Dive: Law, Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality — Gamma Law’ (Gamma Law, 2017) <> accessed 23 December 2019.
  9. Roesner, F., & Kohno, T. (2021, January). Security and privacy for augmented reality: Our 10-year retrospective. In VR4Sec: 1st International Workshop on Security for XR and XR for Security.
  10. Gulhane, A., Vyas, A., Mitra, R., Oruche, R., Hoefer, G., Valluripally, S., ... & Hoque, K. A. (2019, January). Security, privacy and safety risk assessment for virtual reality learning environment applications. In 2019 16th IEEE Annual Consumer Communications & Networking Conference (CCNC) (pp. 1-9). IEEE.
  11. Langfinger, M., Schneider, M., Stricker, D., & Schotten, H. D. (2017, July). Addressing security challenges in industrial augmented reality systems. In 2017 IEEE 15th international conference on industrial informatics (INDIN) (pp. 299-304). IEEE.
  12. Noah, Naheem & Shearer, Sommer & Das, Sanchari. (2022). Security and Privacy Evaluation of Popular Augmented and Virtual Reality Technologies. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.4173372.
  13. Dick, E. (2022, June 3). Balancing User Privacy and Innovation  in Augmented and Virtual Reality. ITIF.
  14. Why Are Security Risks in Virtual and Augmented Reality A Major Concern Now? (2024, March 24). ITsecurity Demand.
  15. Balaban, D. (2024, April 23). VR and AR: Potential security risks to be prepared for.