Advertising in Virtual Reality Gives Rise to Privacy Concerns
Virtual Reality (VR) is an exciting and immersing technology. Typically, a pair of high-tech goggles/headset transports the viewer into a completely fictional and often computer-generated world.  Many are anticipating that this technology will disrupt the traditional forms of entertainment, such as video games and films. How awesome would it be to feel like you’re actually a video game’s hero as you slay dragons and find treasures? Or perhaps you would like to be able to turn your head and survey your surroundings as you watch your favorite film as if you’re actually on the film set watching it all happen? Creators of entertainment and their audiences are full of hopes and dreams about the future of VR, but they are not the only ones excited about this new and rapidly developing technology. Advertisers are eager to work with VR technology as well, because this technology opens up a whole new avenue of advertising.
The New Avenues of Advertising
Throughout the years, advertisers have striven to become efficient. This is because advertising can be costly, but it traditionally leads to higher sales and more profit. Especially in this age of the internet and social media, many companies rely heavily (or sometimes solely) on advertising revenue (i.e. Youtube, Facebook, etc.). Just like how advertisers, back in the days before the internet, fought to buy the commercial spots during popular TV shows that had higher viewership, advertisers today are constantly trying to come up with more effective ways to reach the most narrowly targeted audiences in order to boost efficiency and sales profit.
Narrow targeting of advertisements is accomplished by pairing certain advertisements with certain media content (i.e. a truck advertisement attached to a monster truck rally). Non-skippable video ads (i.e. an advertisement that must play through before you can get to the Youtube video that you want to watch) is one way today’s advertisers try to raise the viewership of these narrowly targeted advertisements. However, there is no way for the advertiser to know if the consumer actually watched the advertisement (despite the lack of option to skip it). The consumer could have shifted their attention from their laptop to their smart phone for the duration of a three-minute advertisement. Virtual Reality technology solves this issue.
Advertisers working in Virtual Reality cannot only attach content-appropriate advertisements (i.e. Harry Potter merchandise advertisement attached to a Harry Potter film), they can keep track of whether or not a consumer actually watched the advertisement by sensing and recording when a consumer takes off the VR goggles. In fact, VR goggles are designed to force viewer’s to watch advertisements.  This is wonderful news to advertisers because they can maintain meticulous databases on which consumer assuredly watched what kinds of media content (and what kind of advertisements) for how long at what time.
Advertisers may be excited about this new potential for extremely accurate advertisement viewing data, but consumers may voice concerns about how this seems quite intrusive. Today, there are many legal privacy concerns being raised in the area of behavioral advertising. This is the process in which advertisers keep track of what websites you, the consumer, visit so that they can create an intricate profile of your interests, which in turn is used to show you advertisements that you will most likely enjoy. 
For example, when you visit a website (ex: www.Disneyland.com), an advertising company that works with that website will drop a cookie (a line of code) onto your internet browser to keep track of all the subsequent websites you visit. Now that the advertising company knows that you visited the first website (i.e. Disneyland), it assumes you are interested in doing business with them (i.e. buy Disneyland tickets). In the next website you go to (which can be completely unaffiliated with the Walt Disney Company), you may be shown advertisements for Disneyland.  Many consumers see this as a very useful process that makes shopping convenient. However, others feel that this tactic is an invasion of privacy. 
In a similar yet distinctly different manner, the way in which advertisers can keep track of exactly how long you watch a particular advertisement on your brand new VR goggles seems to be quite invasive. Behavioral advertising can control what advertisements to show a particular consumer, but there is never any guarantee that the advertisement is being watched. The VR goggles will guarantee data of absolute viewership.
Going a step further, mass hackings and data breaches of private consumer data from big companies like Target seem to happen once every several months nowadays.  Imagine how devastating such breaches would be if extensive and accurate data of your advertisement viewing history is leaked along with personally identifiable information like names and email addresses. This is a distinct possibility in the world today.
Be Careful of the Trade Offs
At the end of the day, many are still extremely excited about the potential of Virtual Reality technology in the area of entertainment. However, we must keep in mind what kinds of things (i.e. privacy) we may be sacrificing to use it.
Sources: https://www.oculus.com/en-us/  http://venturebeat.com/2015/10/18/virtual-reality-the-last-frontier-in-native-advertising/  http://www.wsj.com/video/how-advertisers-use-internet-cookies-to-track-you/92E525EB-9E4A-4399-817D-8C4E6EF68F93.html  http://www.wsj.com/video/how-advertisers-use-internet-cookies-to-track-you/92E525EB-9E4A-4399-817D-8C4E6EF68F93.html\  http://www.wsj.com/video/how-advertisers-use-internet-cookies-to-track-you/92E525EB-9E4A-4399-817D-8C4E6EF68F93.html  http://www.cnbc.com/2014/01/10/target-stolen-information-involved-up-to-70-million-people.html