International policing agency Interpol has launched its own secure metaverse that it hopes will help police forces around the world to collaborate more easily, including through using digital twins for training, fighting digital offences, and showing crime scenes in court in 3D. An industry expert told Tech Monitor like Interpol building their own virtual worlds will help add credibility and drive wider metaverse adoption.
Users authorised to access the platform are currently able to tour a virtual version of the Interpol General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France using an avatar and communicate with other police officers from around the world.
The Interpol metaverse is delivered through the Interpol secure cloud platform ensuring it has national and corporate neutrality, rather than being hosted on a public cloud platform.
The technology was demonstrated to delegates at the recent Interpol General Assembly in New Delhi, India, where they could enter the Lyon building using a virtual-reality headset.
“For many, the Metaverse seems to herald an abstract future, but the issues it raises are those that have always motivated Interpol – supporting our member countries to fight crime and making the world, virtual or not, safer for those who inhabit it,” said secretary general Jürgen Stock.
A new group has been established at Interpol to ensure the virtual world is secure by design as its usage increases and new locations are added by police forces around the world. It has partnered with independent standards body, the Metaverse Standards Forum, to ensure its voice is heard during development.
Interpol metaverse and the importance of standards
Madan Oberoi, Interpol’s executive director of technology and innovation said the international policing community is getting involved in the metaverse early to push for security to be at the centre when standards are being developed. It has also joined the Metaverse Standards Forum.
He told Tech Monitor: “A regulatory framework has to be developed and put in place and traditionally law enforcement plays a catch-up role. All regulations are in place then we arrive at the scene and then we complain it doesn’t take into case law enforcement. In the case of metaverse, we want to be there from day one.”
“We need to look at ensuring it has a ‘secure by design’ regulatory framework from the start,” he says. “If we don’t put security as the centrepiece what will happen is we will be doing a patchwork later on and sometimes they do not work and holes are left open.”
Interpol says it is vital the police understand the metaverse now, as it is predicted by many to be the next evolution of the internet. A report by Gartner predicts that by 2026 one in four people will spend at least an hour a day in a virtual world, whether to work, study, shop or socialise.
There is some way to go before that happens though, as a YouGov survey from March this year found just over 57% of people in the UK had heard of the metaverse, although that rises to 66% for 18 to 25-year-olds, the group most likely to embrace the technology.
Tackling crime in the metaverse
A Global Crime Trend report from Interpol found that crime is increasingly moving online, prompting delegates at the Interpol event in New Delhi to ask: “How can law enforcement continue to protect communities and guarantee the rule of law?” Interpol says there is already evidence of criminals exploiting the metaverse through social engineering scams, violent extremism and misinformation.
“As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible crimes will only expand to potentially include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment,” an Interpol spokesperson said in a statement.
Beyond preparing for ways to tackle crime in the metaverse, Interpol says it has real-world benefits for the police including through better remote work, networking, modelling crime scenes to preserve evidence and delivering training.
During a demo in New Delhi, experts delivered a training course on travel document verification and passenger screening in a metaverse classroom, with students then teleported to a virtual airport where they could put the new skills into direct practice at a virtual border point.
“The metaverse has the potential to transform every aspect of our daily lives with enormous implications for law enforcement,” said Oberoi. “But in order for police to understand the metaverse, we need to experience it."
How Interpol will use digital twins
There are many potential uses, Oberoi says, including the creation of digital twins, replicating crime scenes so they can be analysed without disturbing the real situation. “It will also be very useful when it comes to prosecuting cases in court,” Oberoi explains. “We can take a judge through the scene of crime as it is in the real world better than on a 2D screen or map.”
Marcel Hollerbach, Web3 entrepreneur and chief innovation officer at product-to-consumer (P2C) platform Productsup, says regulating and creating laws can help legitimise the metaverse and increase the speed of mass adoption.
“Interpol investing in the metaverse is a great first step, especially as it’s a well-known and trusted name,” he says. “Not only does it help create structure for virtual worlds, but it also provides value in the physical world. For instance, digital twins could be used to preserve evidence.”
“The metaverse can also be a great tool to bring distributed law enforcement teams together to improve consistency in training. For Interpol, creating more integration across teams spread out around the world (physical or digital) is essential.”