The internet has changed everything about how we interact with friends, family, colleagues and clients—and not all for the better. At the inception of the internet, trust and safety were an afterthought—and companies, governments and nonprofits have long been playing catchup on security, cyberbullying and everything in between.
Safety, security, and privacy are the top three factors influencing the respondents’ willingness to engage with metaverse.
of people believe that the metaverse will be the same as social media in securing users’ data, protecting their safety and ensuring their privacy. The rest are split on which will be worse.
Potential financial value is 4x more important to consumer interest in cryptocurrencies and NFTs than the ethos of crypto (e.g., decentralization, transparency).
It’s important to bear this in mind now, with the rise of new metaverse platforms built on different governance models and content-creation economies enabled by blockchain and utilizing immersive human-machine interfaces. So, as companies look to build their own metaverse experiences, they must put trust and safety at the core of their user strategy.
The world needs a Responsible Metaverse that’s built with past lessons and existing challenges in mind, so we can better anticipate—and account for—what lies ahead. Otherwise, the metaverse won’t live up to its potential to transform how work is performed, how products and services are delivered, how goods are distributed and how businesses operate.
Accenture conducted a global consumer study of 17,500 people in 19 countries between August and September 2022. The responses informed our comprehensive framework to guide responsible innovation in the metaverse, characterized by eight dimensions that are fundamental to building both trusted and human-centric experiences. We also uncovered six major emerging challenges companies must consider as they enter the metaverse.
But there’s a single, overarching insight: People care about more than just the front-end experience. That’s why organizations will have to dig deep to earn—and maintain—trust.
Foundations of a Responsible Metaverse
Companies, researchers and governments have worked to retrofit privacy, security and other consumer protection elements into the internet—and yet they always seem to be one step behind. That’s why it’s essential to embed responsibility into the metaverse’s design, across the eight trust and human dimensions that comprise our framework. Get both areas right for a metaverse that people want to engage in and return to, as they’ll feel free to express their authentic and unique selves in a safe and respectful manner.
The primary purpose of collecting, processing and sharing user data should be to deliver value to users who are informed about their privacy options.
Security by design should focus on hardening infrastructure and software against threats such as social engineering attacks, and include robust encryption and interoperable authentication protocols.
Platforms and devices should be capable of supporting high-fidelity and low-latency experiences that are immersive and persistent for large numbers of global users to interact simultaneously, in real time.
Intellectual property rights
Platforms must enforce intellectual property rights through robust detection capabilities and comprehensive user education, and leverage AI tools to detect and flag infringements.
of consumers agreed that they’d be more likely to engage—create, buy or trade collectibles—in NFT marketplaces that actively combat counterfeits.
of consumers are most concerned about privacy in the metaverse. Among those, Millennials and Gen-Z—digitally savvy consumers—were most concerned about privacy in the metaverse.
Platforms must proactively implement policies, technologies and practices to discourage harmful content and behaviors, and invest in predictive and real-time detection capabilities.
Inclusion, diversity & accessibility
Companies should design systems and experiences to be inclusive and accessible, so users feel empowered to reinvent themselves if they wish—but certain situations call for authenticity and real identities.
Companies should build and use hardware and software with green technology principles, with users educated about what they can do to reduce the environmental footprint of the metaverse.
Devices, systems and digital environments should be rooted in preserving and improving users’ mental and physical health.
of consumers ranked strong security and data protection capabilities as the most important factors when selecting NFT platforms—over “ease of use” and “popularity of marketplace.”
of respondents agreed that robust privacy, safety and security mechanisms would impact their willingness to engage in metaverse experiences.
Studies show that trust is the decisive variable in forming commitment, which explains why users are more willing to engage with online platforms that they consider trustworthy. It’s therefore reasonable to expect that if we build trust in metaverse technologies and experiences, we can attain widescale user adoption.
Key considerations for the metaverse
The internet’s pace of evolution—and the challenges that came with it—were hard to predict. Hindsight tells us, though, that companies should begin creating frameworks that fit their people, customers and businesses—with responsibility as the North Star. Decisions on everything from privacy to interoperability are easier to make when the risks are clearly defined and understood going in, as they weren’t in the early days of the internet.
There are six areas of focus that organizations should start exploring and understanding, right now, to ensure a safe and secure metaverse that is as engaging and valuable for businesses as it is for users:
The metaverse will generate real-time information about movement and physical attributes, spatial and social data about users’ surroundings, and even details about people’s mental, physical and emotional states. However, no one yet knows how privacy compliance works in a decentralized ecosystem, or how organizations can moderate content in a space where users are engaging in live interactions.
Key takeaway: Companies that implement intuitive privacy defaults and innovative transparency approaches are more likely to succeed at engaging and retaining people in the metaverse. Strong data protection practices create a baseline for trust when novel kinds of data are being collected and processed.
In an era of discontinuity and distrust, multiparty systems enabled by blockchain are rising in popularity. But are consumers really interested in engaging with a brand through digital assets? Companies must conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess if there is value in a specific blockchain use case or opportunity. They must understand the potential risks (operational, financial, legal and reputational) and plan corresponding mitigation strategies.
Key takeaway: Explore the full range of digital-asset options, including enterprise-grade platforms and solutions. Define what your target audience truly values and select trusted technology solutions and service providers that address concerns around privacy, security and safety.
Users want to interact seamlessly with various applications and service providers across virtual worlds and digital asset platforms. But it’s most likely that parts of the metaverse will be built on open and interoperable standards, while others will be walled off and operate under proprietary standards.
Key takeaway: Innovations such as a universal digital wallet infrastructure that would allow people to tokenize identity, money and objects, and take these from one digital world to another, could enable greater interoperability. But achieving this level of interoperability will take significant time, coordination and financial resources.
Enforcing digital safety is more critical in the metaverse because the immersive and embodied nature of VR experiences blurs the lines between digital and physical harms. Moderating the metaverse is more complex because interactions occur in real time and involve gestures and speech, not just static data (e.g., pictures, text, videos). As such, the metaverse requires hybrid approaches to digital safety that leverage technology, human, and community- driven elements.
Key Takeaway: Companies, governments and civil societies must partner to overcome significant challenges to digital safety and to ensure that virtual environments do not compromise the health and well-being of users. These public-private partnerships should identify and prioritize online harms in the metaverse (e.g., misinformation, bullying, extremism); build tools to combat harmful content; and invest in talent to support platform integrity and community managers.
Environmental sustainability is one of the greatest priorities of our generation. As witnessed in past decades, technology presents both opportunities and challenges for sustainability. For example, digital twins let companies visualize new products prior to physical production, reducing wasteful churn; immersive collaboration can replace carbon-intensive travel; and storytelling can raise awareness and close the intention-action gap. At the same time, creating immersive experiences requires significant computing power, data storage and new devices.
Key takeaway: Organizations should ask: How can I use the metaverse sustainably? How can I become net more sustainable by using the metaverse? Identify the sustainability levers that your organization controls and determine key metrics that measure progress and drive accountability for metaverse sustainability across the organization. Simultaneously, explore how the metaverse can drive innovative solutions to champion sustainability.
The freedom to be our authentic selves is often associated with a sense of wellbeing, but we know that in the wrong circumstances, our identities can make us targets for discrimination. As in the real world, we need to feel secure, respected and accepted in the new spaces we create. The metaverse must be bound by codes and boundaries designed to care for all, and organizations must account for the unequal distribution of and access to infrastructure, wealth and technology.
Key takeaway: Organizations must work together to actively shape the norms regarding digital self-expression by embedding inclusivity throughout the design process. Product teams must consider the full diversity of the users they aim to serve to address their needs—from different hair options and ethnic features to body types, neurodiversity requirements and more.
of consumers claimed it was important to them to be able to use the same avatar across multiple platforms.
of those under age 40 agreed they wanted the freedom to change their avatar depending on the circumstance, and to have their avatars look like whatever and whoever they want.
What comes next
It’s easy to get distracted by the novelty of the metaverse. Instead, use this opportunity to position the entire enterprise for growth—without sacrificing core values. Whether you’re using the metaverse to transform enterprise operations, reimagine the employee experience or engage with consumers in new ways, your strategy should account for—and advance—the following values to realize enduring success:
Designate a leader to ensure that your organization designs and deploys the metaverse responsibly.
This individual will focus on privacy, security and safety, as well as embedding inclusion, diversity, sustainability and well-being in order to maintain trust.
Create a handbook that articulates principles and guidance for responsible innovation and use of the metaverse for your organization.
Leverage our comprehensive framework, bearing in mind that the eight Trust and Human dimensions are equally important. They are interconnected, so one aspect shouldn’t be prioritized at the expense of another.
Decode the challenges the metaverse creates for your organization and apply a decision framework to help you navigate the metaverse responsibly and strategically.
Implement an approach to trust and safety that prevents and mitigates toxicity, promotes civility and has the tools, technology and talent that ensure the metaverse is safe.
To identify the right solution to these challenges, consider applying the following approach:
Ensure that you use the metaverse in a manner that is consistent with your core mission and values—and that safeguards brand integrity.
Understand who your stakeholders are, their needs and expectations from the metaverse experience—then build trusted experiences to meet expectations.
Anticipate disruptive scenarios and make sure innovations in the metaverse can withstand change.
Establish strong governance and accountability to build and maintain user trust.
The metaverse is more than a new technology; it’s a new platform for engagement, collaboration and commerce. Organizations across the metaverse ecosystem—builders, buyers, users and enforcers—have a role to play to build a Responsible Metaverse, one with trusted technologies and human-centered experiences.
Even with a Responsible Metaverse framework, building safe spaces will be an iterative, agile development process, requiring a broad range of voices and philosophies. But everyone can agree that we stand, collectively, at a virtual doorway unlike any other faced in recent history. We have a rare opportunity to ensure that a new, life-changing and enriching technology doesn’t outpace society’s best intentions, and instead helps us realize them.
About the research
In August and September 2022, Accenture conducted a two-part survey to understand consumer perceptions of the metaverse. The study was global, spanning 19 countries, with 500 respondents per country.
The extended reality survey of 8,503 consumers focused on perceptions of immersive experiences in the metaverse. The web3 survey of 9,005 consumers focused on their perceptions of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and DAOs.