Ethics Emerging: the Story of Privacy and Security Perceptions in Virtual Reality


Devon Adams, Alseny Bah, and Catherine Barwulor, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Nureli Musaby, James Madison University; Kadeem Pitkin, College of Westchester; Elissa M. Redmiles, University of Maryland


Virtual reality (VR) technology aims to transport the user to a virtual world, fully immersing them in an experience entirely separate from the real world. VR devices can use sensor data to draw deeply personal inferences, for example about medical conditions and emotions. Further, VR environments can enable virtual crimes (e.g., theft, assault on virtual representations of the user) from which users have been shown to experience emotional pain similar in magnitude to physical crimes. As such, VR may involve especially sensitive user data and interactions. To effectively mitigate such risks and design for safer experiences, we must understand end-user perceptions of VR risks and how, if at all, developers are considering and addressing those risks. In this paper, we present the first work on VR security and privacy perceptions: a mixed-methods study involving semi-structured interviews with 20 VR users and developers, a survey of VR privacy policies, and an ethics co-design study with VR developers. We establish a foundational understanding of users' concerns about privacy, security, and well-being (both physical and psychological) in VR; raise concerns about the state of VR privacy policies; and contribute a concrete VR developer "code of ethics'', created by developers, for developers.

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@inproceedings {219386,
author = {Devon Adams and Alseny Bah and Catherine Barwulor and Nureli Musaby and Kadeem Pitkin and Elissa M. Redmiles},
title = {Ethics Emerging: the Story of Privacy and Security Perceptions in Virtual Reality},
booktitle = {Fourteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security ({SOUPS} 2018)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-45-4},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {427--442},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},