Tone Deaf Facebook To Cripple VR Headsets Unless You Link It To Your Facebook Account

from the what's-the-opposite-of-advertising dept

Back in 2014 when Facebook bought Oculus, there were the usual pre-merger promises that nothing would really change, or that Facebook wouldn’t erode everything folks liked about the independent kickstarted product. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who has since moved on to selling border surveillance tech to the Trump administration, made oodles of promises to that effect before taking his money and running toward the sunset. Among those promises was the promise users would never be forced to use a Facebook login account just to use your VR headset and its games, and that the company wouldn’t track your behavior for advertising.

Like every major merger, those promises didn’t mean much. This week, Facebook and Oculus announced that users will soon be forced to — use a Facebook account if they want to be able to keep using Oculus hardware, so the company can track its users for advertising purposes. The official Oculus announcement tries to pretend that this is some innate gift to the end user, instead of just an obvious way for Facebook to expand its behavioral advertising empire:

“Giving people a single way to log into Oculus?using their Facebook account and password? will make it easier to find, connect, and play with friends in VR. We know that social VR has so much more to offer, and this change will make it possible to integrate many of the features people know and love on Facebook.”

And while users won’t be forced to fully use Facebook to login until 2023, those that don’t want Facebook tracking their every online waking movement will be out of luck. Meaning that you may not be able to use your pricey hardware — or the software you’ve been accumulating — unless you agree to join the Facebook universe:

“After January 1, 2023, we will end support for Oculus accounts. If you choose not to merge your accounts at that time, you can continue using your device, but full functionality will require a Facebook account. We will take steps to allow you to keep using content you have purchased, though we expect some games and apps may no longer work. This could be because they include features that require a Facebook account or because a developer has chosen to no longer support the app or game you purchased. All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account.”

The changes will also impact the functionality of Oculus Quest’s “Link,” which lets users connect the standalone VR headset to a PC to expand its functionality. It also begs the question: what happens if you get banned by Facebook due to its incoherent and inconsistent moderation strategies? You suddenly can’t use your VR headset because Facebook’s algorithms stupidly ban you for posting photos of yourself breastfeeding?

This being Facebook, there’s not a mention of any ability to prevent Facebook from being able to track the entirety of your behavior while using a VR headset. Given all the justified criticism of Facebook, the consumer response (especially among those that liked Oculus but have tried to avoid Facebook) is about what you’d expect over at forums like the Oculus subreddit:

The whole thing is very tone deaf, and very… Facebook. Facebook’s need to track and monetize Oculus user behavior bulldozed over any concerns the company may have had about interoperability, or any valid concerns that this could simply drive customers to more open competitors. It’s yet another example of users buying a product and features they believe they own, only to have functionality eroded or the terms of use dramatically modified down the road. It’s also yet another example of how, more often than not, the promises made ahead of major U.S. mergers mean absolutely nothing.

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Companies: facebook, oculus

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Comments on “Tone Deaf Facebook To Cripple VR Headsets Unless You Link It To Your Facebook Account”

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29 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Because fuck Facebook

I’m so glad I didn’t end up buying an Oculus.

Anyone who remotely cared about device support, privacy, or continued investment in VR knew the fad was over again the second that Fuckerberg bought Oculus.

Facebook had no reason to buy Oculus other than cashing in on the VR fad for all it was worth. That was obvious from the get go, and as others warned, the fad died another quick death shortly thereafter. As Facebook’s popularity (at the time) combined with the Rift’s lackluster offerings and non-existent investment future proved to be VR’s downfall. Everyone talked about the Rift and all of it’s weaknesses and problems. Practically no-one outside the gaming crowd knew about the HTC Vive, and that ignorance was also held by investors. Facebook buying Oculus put the VR spotlight on the Rift, because who could hope to out compete Facebook’s userbase? Of course all bets were on Facebook. Meanwhile as a public data mining company, Facebook had no real investment in the Rift nor gaming in general. The Rift was not part of their core business, and only served to have a foothold for wringing out more data to sell if VR took off. To Facebook the Rift was nothing more than a cashcow that would eventually run dry. Despite the obviousness all of this, once that cashcow stopped producing milk, investors everywhere claimed that VR was dead. That if Facebook couldn’t make VR successful, no-one could.

Of course there are other issues with VR in-general and Facebook isn’t responsible for all of them, but with Facebook throwing a spotlight on VR too early, being late to the party on all subsequent improvements, and deflating investor expectations, there’s a lot less support for fixing these issues now, than there was before.

This announcement is just Facebook trying to lock in it’s remaining userbase. Forcing them more into their core business than they already are, in hopes of squeezing out just a little bit more from that dry cashcow. If by some miracle VR returns again this generation, Facebook’s move is also to ensure their foothold remains in place ready to be exploited once again with little effort.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Because fuck Facebook

You do realise that you have no idea about the curent state of VR. the VR market is thriving and growing larger day by day. Until recently headsets like the Valve Index and the Oculus range were sold out and selling for massively inflated prices on ebay.

More and more triple A developers are bringing their games to VR and Sony are continuing support for VR on the PS5. Also, Apple have plans to release a VR headset of some type.

The rise of VR in commercial enterprises such as architecture, engineering and film production also shows a large rise.

So, you really should do some research before spouting that load of bollocks.

GHB (profile) says:

Re: Upcoming FB Buyouts

Agreed, imagine if everything else does that. “You need a Facebook account in order to use your iphone”.

Already “smart” devices connected to the internet have ads on them, such as TVs and even refrigerators.

Login walls (even when the content is free) = sell your info (certain it’s your email address since 99% of registrations ask for it)

Anonymous Coward says:

Fortunately, I created a secondary empty FB account years ago so I’ll just have to switch to that when the hammer falls. I haven’t been using my Rift S much lately. It was a bit of a novelty and the reason I upgraded my computer build, but the games just aren’t perfected enough and the fatigue of the physical experience means you can only play for thirty minutes at a time at most.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, this still allows FB to track you.
It just tracks some of your interests independently from the others. Two half-profiles, and they might have ways to link your profiles internally.

I’m not sure about this, but given that they already had ways to track users that never even signed in, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could find you across different logins.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: VR Gamers Yell at 3D Clouds

It depends on the game, but there’s certainly extra accounts required to play games from the likes of EA, Ubisoft and WB, although the scope of the extras provided by logging in might differ.

That’s slightly different as you can still access other games on the console without agreeing to such things, but this kind of stuff is prevalent.

Mononymous Tim (profile) says:

Just like Google’s scheme to railroad everyone into Google+ if they wanted to rate anything in the Play Store or comment on a YouTube video (there may have been other stuff too). That didn’t go over too well, but unfortunately it took forever (and the exposure of data on people who didn’t even want to be there in the first place) for Google to admit it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The difference is that my Oculus account is anonymous, uses a one time email address and has no links to my life outside the Oculus site.

By forcing a link to a FB account where you have to prove your identity, this removes any anonymity and allows them to monetise my activity data.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"The difference is that my Oculus account is anonymous"

Is it, though? I’ll bet there’s IP gathering at the very least. Something that they’re probably cross-referencing with other things they own, like their main site or their ad network.

It might be more anonymous than a Facebook account, but you’re fooling yourself if there’s not at minimum metadata that’s connecting you to something. Especially if you’ve used the account to buy something for the device.

PaulT (profile) says:

Well, two thoughts really – first, is anyone really surprised? A company that runs its own massive login environment not wanting to run a legacy environment indefinitely is not surprising. The only issue here is that it’s Facebook rather than any other company, but this has absolutely been on the cards since the merger, you have to be somewhat foolish not to realise that.

Secondly, unless you bought the first batches of Oculus devices that came out before Facebook bought them, what the hell were you doing buying Facebook devices if you’re that anti-Facebook? You were OK giving Facebook money directly so long as you could fool yourself into thinking they’re not going leverage the other data you provide to them? Really?

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m fascinating by Facebooks moderation policy.

Post a picture of a nipple = instant ban

Post a joke about Zuckerbot = Instant ban

but they leap to the defence of people openly and actively calling for new concentration camps for jewish and the genocide of everyone deemed "non-white". Seriously. there are active white supremacists, using facebook to organize and call for death camps, and Facebook has promised they won’t be taken down.

I’m actually starting to wonder what Zuckerberg (majority shareholder/voter) and his beliefs are.

Is Mark Zuckerberg hiding the fact that he’s a jewish and black-hating white supremacist?

Anonymous Coward says:

"full functionality"

If you choose not to merge your accounts at that time, you can continue using your device, but full functionality will require a Facebook account.

What would "full functionality" mean in practice? Are there third-party drivers/software that could restore the missing features, or is it using a bunch of secret protocols?

Rekrul says:

I’m really amazed at just how stupid people today are.

Why the fuck does a piece of hardware need an online account in the first place???

The quotes in the article mention something about finding people online to play against. Isn’t that supposed to be done by the game you’re playing? I’ve never seen a gamepad driver that offers to find online games for you.

It’s a piece of fucking hardware, it doesn’t need an online account to function. Just like your stupid "smart" lightbulbs shouldn’t need a damn account.

People today are too stupid to see that none of this shit actually needs an online account to function and that such requirements are purely for tracking and advertising purposes.

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