Image: Gizmodo

The Oculus Rift is starting to ship, and we’re pretty happy with it. While it’s cool, like any interesting gadget, it’s worth looking through the Terms of Service, because there are some worrisome things included.

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Quite a few of the items in the document are pretty typical in any sort of Terms of Service agreement. These include details like waiving your right to a juried trial and agreeing to go into arbitration instead. Oculus can also terminate your service for myriad reasons, and third parties can collect information on you. However, there are some even more devilish details in the Rift’s full Terms of Service.

Oculus (and basically Facebook) owns creative content [See Update]

If you create something using Oculus’ services, the Terms of Service say that you surrender all rights to that work and that Oculus can use it whenever it wants, for whatever purposes:

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By submitting User Content through the Services, you grant Oculus a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual (i.e. lasting forever), non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free and fully sublicensable (i.e. we can grant this right to others) right to use, copy, display, store, adapt, publicly perform and distribute such User Content in connection with the Services. You irrevocably consent to any and all acts or omissions by us or persons authorized by us that may infringe any moral right (or analogous right) in your User Content.

Basically, if you create something and then blast it out into the world using the pipelines that Oculus provides, the company can use it—and they don’t have to pay you for using it. Oculus can use it even if you don’t agree with its use. Oculus does not go as far as saying that it owns the content—but it can does want access to it in ways that some creators might find intrusive.

This probably doesn’t matter much if you’re using the device as a gaming platform, but with a new type of device that’s out there, there are a whole range of unforeseen uses. Based on the wording of the Terms of Service, a creative developer could make a piece of interactive artwork that Oculus could then use for an Oculus ad without the artist’s permission.

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Who knows what else VR might allow people to create. But to do so—at least initially with the Oculus Rift—you might lose out on exclusivity with your work, something that’s important for writers and artists.

Oculus can collect data from you while you’re using the device

This next caveat is more obvious but also more worrisome. The Terms of Service document reads:

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  • Information about your interactions with our Services, like information about the games, content, apps or other experiences you interact with, and information collected in or through cookies, local storage, pixels, and similar technologies (additional information about these technologies is available at https://www.oculus.com/en-us/cookies-…);
  • Information about how you access our Services, including information about the type of device you’re using (such as a headset, PC, or mobile device), your browser or operating system, your Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, and certain device identifiers that may be unique to your device;
  • Information about the games, content, or other apps installed on your device or provided through our Services, including from third parties;
  • Location information, which can be derived from information such as your device’s IP address. If you’re using a mobile device, we may collect information about the device’s precise location, which is derived from sources such as the device’s GPS signal and information about nearby WiFi networks and cell towers; and
  • Information about your physical movements and dimensions when you use a virtual reality headset.’

Furthermore, the information that they collect can be used to directly market products to you:

  • To market to you. We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our Services. We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.

This is kind of creepy! Given that Oculus can collect information about how you move and how you’re shaped. The Facebook-owned company can use your location and log your activity, and it can even do so automatically.

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And on a related note, given that Facebook owns Oculus, it’s not surprising that the Terms of Service also include language that allows the company to monetize your experience: that is, after all, what the Facebook platform has been historically extremely good at.

What’s most worrisome here is that the emergence of VR technology opens up an new type of data for companies to mine en masse which can be collected efficiently. The fact that Oculus, the clear leader in the new VR marketplace, is setting this precedent could be dangerous for the future of the technology. Furthermore, as UploadVR noted, the Oculus Rift is a device that is always on (much like Microsoft’s Xbox One Kinect feature) which leads to further concerns about when the information will be collected. Who the hell knows when and where the NSA will get involved.

Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 8:30am:

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Oculus clarified some of the language in their policy for us: they confirmed that they do not claim ownership of any content and IP that is created through Oculus’s services, but they do permit the company to license content:

Users and content developers own all the content and IP they create using Oculus services. We are not taking ownership. Our terms of service give Oculus a license to user created content so we can enable a full suite of current and future products and services on our platform, like sharing a piece of VR content with a friend. People continue to own the rights to the content and can do whatever they like with it outside of our platform. This is very clear in our terms: “Unless otherwise agreed to, we do not claim any ownership rights in or to your user content.”

[Oculus Rift, UploadVR, Reddit]