Surveillance Behind the Lenses: Raising Awareness of Eye-Tracking Privacy Risks in VR through Visceral Notice

Lecture by Professor Evan Selinger, Rochester Institute of Technology.


As virtual reality (VR) technology advances, eye tracking has become increasingly important for creating immersive experiences and increasingly concerning because it poses significant privacy risks. Eye-tracking data can reveal sensitive information about people’s attention, interests, characteristics, and identities.

My talk will discuss these risks and propose an innovative approach to raising user awareness: designing and deploying visceral notice strategies that leverage VR’s immersive features to grab users’ attention and communicate privacy risks engagingly and intuitively. These strategies include displaying a pair of watchful eyes that remind users that their gaze is being tracked, deploying colour trails that reveal the path of a user’s visual attention, and having the user consent to allow access to eye-tracking data by directing their gaze at a target.

Visceral notice strategies can empower users to make more informed decisions about whether and when to enable eye tracking and encourage developers to adopt more transparent and user-centred practices. To provide empirical support for these claims, I will present findings from an experiment I conducted with colleagues in computer science, design, and law. The results of our study add to a growing body of research on user-centric privacy-protecting design.


Evan Selinger is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His research covers a range of issues in the philosophies of technology, especially privacy and ethics (including AI ethics).  

A prolific author, Prof. Selinger is currently working on a new book (co-authored with Albert Fox-Cahn), titled Move Slow and Upgrade: The Power of Incremental Innovation (Cambridge University Press). His previous book is Re-Engineering Humanity (co-authored with Brett Frischmann, Cambridge University Press).

Prof. Selinger regularly writes for newspapers, magazines, and blogs to foster critical conversations beyond the necessary yet narrow academic circles. He’s currently a contributing writer at The Boston Globe. His essays and op-eds also appear in The New York TimesThe Washington PostWiredThe AtlanticSlateThe Wall Street JournalThe NationThe Guardian, Forbes, and HuffPost (to name a few)

To improve military policy, Prof. Evan Selinger is currently a member of the Institute for Defense Analysis’s Ethical, Legal, and Social/Societal (ELSI) Working Group, contributing to DARPA-funded projects that use artificial intelligence.

To enhance public policy, Prof. Selinger works with legal and advocacy organizations like the ACLU, Stop Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, The Justice Collaborative Institute, and Fight for the Future.

Prof. Selinger has also advised several companies, non-profits, and government organizations.

All are welcome.

The lecture is funded by the DFF project Absence of information in decision-making processes (ABSENCE).