Safety, Security & Privacy: Some Risks to Be Aware of with the Rise of AR

Robert Perkins
3 min readNov 14, 2018


Nintendo’s AR application “Pokémon Go” developed and published by Niantic.

Augmented-reality technologies overlay digitally generated audio, visual, or haptic feedback on a user’s perception of the physical world.” I will be the first to admit that I am beyond excited about all of the net-positive possibilities and promising potential of developing AR technology. However, behind all that enthusiasm is some skepticism and concern; what are the safety, security, and privacy risks associated with this new technological medium? Over the next few paragraphs, I will outline these concerns and possible resolutions to them.

I would like to start with possible safety risks associated with the rise of AR. Since augmented-reality “allows technology to directly mediate a person’s perception of and interaction with the physical world.”, users rely on AR’s technology to assist them with specialized tasks by allowing AR “applications to get admission to sensors, develop graphic objects and integrate visuals” into their surrounding environment. This begs the question; how could a malicious actor or hacker compromise safety for a user with AR-dependent technology? CSO’s Dwight Davis poses that hackers “could compromise the output of an AR system, tricking users into thinking computer-generated objects are real — such as a false speed limit sign” or even planting a “malicious application that could leak a user’s field of view or location.” The popular AR mobile application Pokémon Go exemplifies this; as some of it’s users even pursue the overlapped graphics into oncoming traffic. This raises serious concerns as AR applications require unobstructed access to extremely valuable video, audio, and geolocation sensor data; which leads me to security concerns.

Advertisers might be ‘head-over-heels’ over the trove of user-generated AR data they will soon have access to, but how will users and consumers be protected? Since content for AR browsers is currently limited, and AR “is a comparatively new domain”, “authenticated content generation and transmission mechanism needs to be proven.” which raises the question of a “standardized security standard.” for all AR technology. No user wants to be even remotely susceptible to cyber fraud or insidious data manipulation. I’m sure AR providers are developing advanced image recognition protocols, but users should expect AR providers to “limit channel registration policies.”

The last AR concern I would like to outline is privacy; the all-encompassing ‘great protector’ of user-generated data. While there will surely be “ongoing threats from cyber criminals and nation states bent on political chaos and worse” (Bannister, 2018), identity theft and financial manipulation could be some of the biggest issues we could face as AR apps and devices have “access to a constant video and audio feed of your surroundings” in addition to other user feeds. Until the day comes when AR wearables are commonplace, we’ll have to make a lot of noise to set the appropriate standards for consumers, as “it is critical that we anticipate and address these questions now, before AR technologies are widely deployed and their designs set in stone.” I couldn’t of said it better myself as we are headed for quite the ride.

This piece was completed for Prof. Hocheol Yang’s Mobile Media class at Temple University.