It’s official. Starting this October, a Facebook account will be mandatory for all future Oculus headsets. While there’ll be a grace period for anyone with a separate Oculus account, Facebook will end support for those on January 1, 2023.
The decision was announced today on both Oculus’s Twitter and in a press release. The gist of it is anyone who is new to an Oculus device after October must log in with a Facebook account. At that time, existing Oculus users will have the option of merging their Facebook and Oculus accounts. Anyone who doesn’t merge will have two years before their Oculus accounts are kaput. The devices will technically still work, but “full functionality will require a Facebook account.”
Notably, all future, unreleased Oculus devices will also require a Facebook account, regardless of whether you already have an Oculus account. This is perhaps a reference to the rumored successor to the Oculus Quest, which leaks suggest may launch as early as September 15.
What about things you already purchased on your Oculus account? Well, Facebook says it will “take steps” to allow folks to keep the things they’ve already bought but it “expect[s] some games and apps may no longer work,” hinting that developers may decide to include features that require a Facebook account or just stop supporting the app or game in question.
As you might imagine, the replies to Oculus’s announcement on Twitter are less than kind. In a few instances, users cried foul, pointing to a promise from founder Palmer Luckey when Facebook acquired Oculus that people wouldn’t need to log into Facebook when they wanted to use the Oculus Rift. While the move is painted as a means of streamlining the VR experience by “giving people a single way to log in,” it’s also a blatant attempt at forcing people onto Facebook’s platform so it can get your sweet, sweet data.
Aside from pissing off several Oculus owners and developers, requiring a Facebook account for hardware is a dick move. Not everyone who wants to try VR has a Facebook account, or even wants one, considering the social media company’s piss-poor track record when it comes to privacy. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Pew Research Center found that 54% of adult Facebook users had adjusted their privacy settings, with 42% saying they were taking a break from the platform and an additional 26% had deleted the app from their phones. Online, there’s no shortage of articles online that walk you through deleting Facebook accounts or think pieces about what it’s like to actually go through with it.
Essentially, what Facebook is doing here is sacrificing a user’s ability to keep their hobbies separate from social media and data collection. It’s a strategy that’s not limited to Oculus hardware—the company requires Facebook accounts to use its creepy Portal devices, which surprise, surprise, also harvests data. Facebook will never explicitly admit it, but it’s likely made the calculation that user data is more valuable and profitable than selling niche gadgets. It may be gambling that even if several Oculus users leave the platform on principle, their loss will be made up by harvesting the data of those that decide to stay or new users who don’t particularly care what Facebook does as a company.
Either which way, this is a sad day for that Venn diagram intersection of people who love VR and care about digital privacy.