Though the AR cloud will be a great enabler, there will be challenges and questions that surround it. Technical challenges have been well documented, but there are also adjacent challenges like cultural and legal barriers.
Here is the second installment of our drill-down on a few of those challenges. The first installment, covering location targeting and opt-in friction, can be seen here.
Legalities of the AR Cloud
Last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed by property-owners across several states, seeking damages from trespassing. The trespassers had one thing in common: They were playing Pokémon Go. But the interesting part: the defendant in the suit was the game maker… Niantic.
“The plaintiffs are actually alleging that the Niantic committed a form of ‘virtual trespassing,’ said Foley & Lardner Attorney Lucas Silva at January’s ARIA Conference. “The theory being that Niantic can control where these elements are placed and [they] have GPS coordinates.”
This may seem silly, but it’s important. At AR’s early stages of adoption and cultural assimilation, case law will set precedent. And for a sector that’s already a bit fragile in its infancy, legal impediments could stunt growth further. And that could impact the way the AR cloud operates.
“The court had a chance to dismiss the case early on and did not, suggesting that maybe this claim does have a little more legs than some people would have thought,” said Silva. “I think this is a case that has potentially far-reaching implications for augmented reality.”
Some of these issues also drive towards important questions like who “owns” AR and digital real estate, as we examined recently. This could grow in importance and impact over time. And it will be particularly contentious wherever money is being made, such as AR in retail shopping.
“If you are in a Lowe’s store and you’re using a wayfinding app, what if the owner of that store and presumably Lowe’s rents space from the owner of a strip mall?” Silva posed. “Does that strip mall owner potentially have to sign off on the placement of these virtual elements?”
Another area where money — and thus legal attention — will accumulate is AR advertising. Given location-targeted ad scenarios explored last week, questions will face courts such as ownership of digital ad inventory. This could involve ad overlays on private property, or even on other ads.
There are also issues of privacy and data collection. Klaris Law media and entertainment lawyer Alexia Bedat advised during the same ARiA panel to follow existing guidelines for collecting data. Only collect what you ask and get explicit permission for — a contentious topic these days.
That gets more sensitive for anything to do with location data, which will be a key component of AR products and business models. And it gets even more controversial with biometric data, like fitness tracking, which could likewise be central to lots of AR apps in later stages.
Whether its biometrics, ads or private property, legal governance of the AR cloud will be a moving target as case law sets precedent in coming years. Meanwhile, decisions could defer to legal precedents that rule physical property ownership. It is after all nine tenths of the law they say.
Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.