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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: accounts, facebook account, logins, oculus, vr, vr headsets
Companies: facebook, oculus


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    GHB (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:03am

    Login walls - physical hardware edition

    Just when you thought sites like NextGenUpdate and other sites requiring an account to even see content is bad enough, now it is happening on physical goods too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:06am

    Because fuck Facebook

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 10:06pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2020 @ 2:21am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 22 Aug 2020 @ 2:14am

      Re: Because fuck Facebook

      This. I've been strongly considering buying a VR system lately. I guess I know what brand I won't be buying!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:10am

    I already have Facebook and I never use it to log into anything. What a terrible move

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:21am

    Upcoming FB Buyouts

    Maytag. ("Now you have to sign in to FB to refrogerate your food or to wash dishes or clothes.)

    McDonald.s ("Sign into FB to get a Big Mac.")

    etc.

    The next wave of monopolizaton. Forced membership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GHB (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 1:26pm

      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)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 12:08pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:40am

    VR Gamers Yell at 3D Clouds

    Wonder how many people are complaining about this while logged into their iPhone or Android device?

    Anyone here game on Xbox or PS4? I'm guessing you logged in for that too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:51am

      Re: VR Gamers Yell at 3D Clouds

      Yeah I choose what to login into and if I want it to be a seperate login with those systems. My phone still works if facebook isn't on it ans i dont lose any functionality.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 12:16pm

      Re: VR Gamers Yell at 3D Clouds

      How many of those people bought non Android and Apple devices and suddenly found themselves told they're going to have to agree to another company's intrusive terms of service or the thing they've bought will stop working properly?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:20pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:42am

    FB is becoming less relevant every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DeComposer (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 12:14pm

    Thank You, Facebook!

    Dear Facebook,

    Thank you for simplifying my VR hardware choice!

    Love,
    The World

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 12:46pm

    AT&T Model

    I'm getting vibes of the AT&T merger mania from a few years back. Big companies seem to think that if they create an empire, then they can't lose. But forcing consumers to use your product doesn't always end well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 1:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 20 Aug 2020 @ 1:46pm

    So is this the beginning

    of the Oculus rift?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 2:26pm

    The Oculus Account that you could create instead was already a Facebook account, technically. Just like if you ever made an Instagram account. If people are interested in VR but hate Facebook, they should’ve considered buying a different headset. There are tons out there now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:26pm

      Re:

      That's also a very good point. Facebook already own your account, they just decided to force you to get a standard Facebook account rather than changing the T&Cs to the Oculus one so it worked the same way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2020 @ 5:10am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 21 Aug 2020 @ 5:43am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2020 @ 5:38pm

    So they will reimburse those who do not want to login via FB?
    Doubt it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 20 Aug 2020 @ 11:24pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2020 @ 8:24am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2020 @ 3:18pm

    "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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 21 Aug 2020 @ 3:59pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.