Currently, Facebook faces difficult questions about how it handles user information, but most of the discussion has focused on the social network itself. Facebook has many other applications and services, including the Oculus virtual reality platform, which (like all virtual reality platforms) collects incredibly detailed information about where users are watching and how they are moving. VR hearing aids have a clear potential for surveillance and data collection, and Facebook has a poor record of protecting privacy. So, what exactly is the link between Oculus and Facebook in regards to the user's privacy?
A virtual reality platform like Oculus offers many data points that could become a detailed user profile. Facebook already records a "heat map" of the viewer's data for 360-degree videos, for example, marking what parts of a video people find most interesting. If you decided to track virtual reality users at a more detailed level, you could do something like track general movement patterns with manual drivers, and then guess if someone is sick or tired on a particular day. Oculus imagines that people use their headphones the way they use phones and computers nowadays, which would allow them to track all kinds of private communications.
Oculus says Facebook is not using its data for advertising
Oculus says there are some types of data that you do not share or do not keep at all. The platform collects physical information as the height to calibrate virtual reality experiences, but apparently does not share anything with Facebook. It stores the publications that are made in the Oculus forums, but not the voice communications between users in virtual reality, although it can retain records of the connections between them.
The company also offers some examples of when it would share data with Facebook or vice versa. The most obvious thing is that if you use a virtual reality application created by Facebook as Spaces, Facebook gets information about what you are doing there, in the same way that any third-party application developer would.
Optionally you can link your Facebook account to your Oculus ID, in which case, Oculus will use your Facebook interests to suggest specific applications or games. If you have linked the accounts, any friend you add on Facebook will also become your friend on Oculus, if they are on the platform. However, the opposite will not be true, so you can make friends in Oculus without adding them to Facebook. (You can also unlink accounts, as explained on a support page).
Behind the scenes, Oculus apparently shares data between the two services to combat certain types of prohibited activity. "If we find someone using your account to send spam in a service, we can disable all your accounts," says the spokesperson. Similarly, if there is a "strange activity" in a specific Oculus account, they can share the IP address that comes with Facebook.
Oculus has not had any high profile privacy bursts like Facebook did, but concerned VR users have been raising red flags about it for years. Former Minnesota senator Al Franken questioned Oculus about its data collection policies in 2016, for example; The company responded with responses similar to those I have described above.
The biggest problem is that there is nothing that prevents Facebook and Oculus from choosing to share more data in the future. VR journalist Kent Bye raised this concern in a report last year, citing Oculus product vice president Nate Mitchell, admitting that "used in the wrong way or in the wrong hands, it can probably be tracked more than normally. you would wait "in virtual reality.
A lot of VR data mining is not so different from existing methods
As intimate as virtual reality surveillance seems, it remains (as far as we know) not as invasive or comprehensive as the Facebook application and web surveillance. Some of the things that Oculus collects, such as location data and IP address, are already being collected by Facebook applications and pages. VR headsets can indicate where you are looking, but a normal web page can achieve a similar effect by tracking where you are moving the mouse or clicking.
But if the technology of mixed reality advances, this will become a much more important problem. The writer and game developer Chet Faliszek points out that augmented reality glasses would collect much more data than current virtual reality glasses, if you use them for long periods of time in daily life. (I have already written a bit about the enormous privacy implications of AR). Facebook believes that AR glasses are the future, and any previous Oculus set could affect Facebook's mixed reality privacy policies in the future.
At this time, Oculus' privacy stance is ambiguous: it supposedly shares relatively little user information with Facebook but leaves its options open. If you are concerned about the long-term privacy implications of VR, this is not encouraging. But in the short term, most virtual reality users will still give Facebook more data with old-style clicks and shares.