Facebook Will Now Use Oculus VR Data for Ads Just as Everyone Expected


Well, here it is. When Facebook bought Oculus, it assured users that it wouldn’t be using any data gathered via Oculus VR for advertising. It’s a question that’s come up again and again over the years, and it’s always been answered the same way: Oculus and Facebook do not and will not combine data…

Except, now, they do. Oculus has announced changes to its privacy policy regarding how data is shared between Oculus and Facebook when you connect an Oculus Rift to your FB account. You are not required to connect your Oculus account to Facebook in order to use your Rift. Oculus’ FAQ claims that one reason for the tighter integration between the two companies is that Facebook wants to create more social experiences in VR, and the company is launching a new social platform for VR gamers to connect on Facebook. That’s not a terrible idea given that VR suffers from a limited player base, but it’s not an option I’d choose, personally. I’m more a fan of single-player games in the first place.

As far as what data the company is going to collect and use, here’s the official statement:

Facebook will now use information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to help provide these new social features and more relevant content, including ads. Those recommendations could include Oculus Events you might like to attend or ads for VR apps available on the Oculus Store. These changes won’t affect third-party apps and games, and they won’t affect your on-device data.

If you choose not to log into Facebook on Oculus, we won’t share data with Facebook to allow third parties to target advertisements to you based on your use of the Oculus Platform.

The FAQ offers additional information on which data is shared, including:

The VR apps you use, so we can recommend new apps you haven’t tried yet
Your Facebook friend list, so you can join your Facebook friends who are also on Oculus in VR if you choose to
Invites and acceptances for events you create
Information like your name and messaging metadata for chats in Oculus, so that Facebook can send those messages
Your photos and related content like captions, likes and comments if you use the “share photos” feature to share photos from VR to your Facebook Timeline
Information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to show you ads for other VR apps you may like

You have the option to stop sharing data with Facebook by de-linking your Oculus and FB accounts. If you do so, a small amount of data will still be shared (accounts that have been flagged for abuse, for example, are flagged as such on both FB and Oculus sites).

Data Silo Agreements All Come With Expiration Dates

It’s not surprising to see Facebook making this move, but I’d like to hope the tech community can take a lesson from it. When a company claims that it’ll keep two different databases of information separate as a condition of a merger or legal settlement, it doesn’t mean “Forever.” It appears to mean something more like “4-5 years.”

Facebook isn’t making an FB account mandatory to use Oculus Rift — not yet — but I wouldn’t bet on things staying that way long-term. Right now, VR is still a very early market. The various companies trying to promote growth are playing pretty nice with each other, partly because nobody wants bad press to kill a nascent golden goose. But should Oculus start generating the kind of interest that might look like the nucleus of a new user base, don’t be surprised to see Facebook get rather grabby about exactly what kind of accounts people are allowed to have and what the data-sharing arrangements are.

What Facebook has announced, in and of itself, is fine. It might even be pleasantly useful, if you have a large group of VR-playing friends. Inevitably, though, we’re reduced to the meta-question: “Do you actually trust Facebook?” If you do, the company has delivered a lovely feature. If you don’t, you can keep using a separate login ID and keeping your data private (ish).

But I wouldn’t take bets on how long that door will hold. Not if VR actually starts being popular.

Now Read:

Oculus Quest Becomes the First VR Headset With Hand Tracking
One for the Graveyard: Google Discontinues Daydream VR
Sony May Be Prepping PSVR 2 Headset With Built-in Cameras, AR Support

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