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Facebook Is About to Start Harvesting Oculus User Data

By Evan Niu, CFA – Aug 19, 2020 at 9:00AM

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What took so long?

Facebook's (META 1.62%) splashy acquisitions of WhatsApp and Oculus VR were announced about a month apart back in early 2014. The popular messaging platform was far more important strategically due to a variety of reasons -- more directly related to existing businesses, larger user base, massive price tag, etc. -- and Facebook initially vowed not to leverage WhatsApp user data for ad targeting.

The social networking giant reversed course a couple years later and started doing precisely that, a move that reportedly contributed to WhatsApp founders' eventual departure. Facebook is finally getting around to doing likewise with Oculus.

Oculus headset and two touch controllers

Image source: Oculus.

All the better to target you with

This week, Oculus announced that it will soon merge Oculus and Facebook accounts. The virtual reality (VR) technology specialist had introduced support for Facebook integrations back in December, along with tweaks to its privacy policy to acknowledge that choosing to integrate the accounts would result in Facebook using Oculus data for ad targeting. The important distinction was that it was previously optional, but users will soon be forced to use a single login.

Starting in October, new users that have just purchased a device will have to log in with a Facebook account. Existing users that have both accounts can still choose not to merge those accounts...for a limited period of time. The subsidiary company will eliminate separate Oculus accounts altogether starting in 2023. People who still aren't OK with Facebook's snooping by that time will lose certain functionalities on products they've already purchased.

Oculus says that "full functionality" will require a Facebook account and warns that some purchased apps and games might simply stop working without one. "All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account," according to the company. There is a new Oculus Quest headset expected to launch as soon as next month.

Users will be able to create and maintain a separate VR profile to have separate friends lists and choose whether they want to share any of their VR activities on Facebook. However, people who aren't fond of Facebook's snooping will not be able to prevent the data harvesting. Based on the blog post's comments section and social media activity, users are unhappy with the change.

Oculus is naturally framing the move as a way to streamline the login experience for added convenience, but Facebook has more than earned its terrible reputation on the subject of user privacy. The swift backlash shouldn't surprise anyone.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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