Interpol is working on how to police the metaverse04. 02. 2023 Saturday / By: Robert Denes / Generic / Exact time: BST / Print this page
A ccording to Jurgen Stock, Interpol's secretary general, the global police agency is investigating how the organization could detect crime in the metaverse.
The metaverse is the widely debated but not yet realized concept that in the future people will be represented by 3D avatars in their online lives.
Interpol has built its own virtual reality (VR) space where users can participate in training and virtual meetings.
Mr Stock said it was important the agency did not fall behind:
"Criminals are sophisticated and professional and adapt very quickly to any new technological tools available to commit crimes," he said.
"We have to be quite responsive to this. Sometimes the lawmakers, the police and our societies are a little behind.
"We've seen that if we do it too late, it already affects trust in the tools we use, and thus also the metaverse. Similar platforms that already exist are used by criminals."
The environment, which can only be accessed through secure servers, allows police officers to experience what the metaverse can be like, giving them a sense of what crimes can occur and how they can be policed.
So how can Interpol, the organization that promotes global police cooperation, investigate in the metaverse if it doesn't already exist?
In 2022, a BBC investigation identified problems with verbal and sexual harassment within VR games, which one journalist described as "disturbing".
Later that year, campaigners said a 21-year-old researcher's avatar was sexually assaulted on Meta's Horizon Worlds VR platform.
What is metaverse crime?
According to Dr Madan Oberoi, Interpol's executive director of technology and innovation, there are problems with the definition of metaversal crime.
"There are crimes that I don't know if they can still be called crimes or not," he said.
"For example, cases of sexual harassment have been reported.
“If we look at the definitions of these sins in the physical space and try to apply them in the metaverse, difficulties arise.
"We don't know if we can call them criminal or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those questions are still pending."
He said that one of the big challenges facing Interpol is to raise awareness of these problems.
"The example I typically use is that if you have to save a drowning person, you have to know how to swim," he said.
“Similarly, if law enforcement is interested in helping people injured in the metaverse, they need to know about the metaverse.
“And that's one of our goals — to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and become aware of it.
"In that sense, it's very important."
Regulation and investigation in the metaverse
Regarding regulation, Nina Jane Patel, co-founder and head of the metaverse research organization Kabuni, said: "What is illegal and harmful in the physical world should be illegal in the virtual synthetic world.
"In this area of convergence, we get into a very difficult situation where we can treat each other in a certain way in the virtual world but not in the physical world.
"And we're going to create a lot of disconnect and misunderstanding between acceptable human behavior in our digital world and the physical world."
And Mr Stock said Interpol would play a critical role in investigating future metaversal crimes.
"With one click, the evidence is on another continent," he said. “Cybercrime is international in nature.
"That's why Interpol is so important, because there's not just national cybercrime - for almost every case it has an international dimension.
“This is what makes Interpol's role, almost 100 years after its creation, so critical in today's world because no country can fight this type of crime in isolation.
"This is what Interpol is about with 195 member countries, all of them are needed to fight this type of crime."