Stop Ruining Oculus, Facebook

Illustration for article titled Stop Ruining Oculus, Facebook
Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

Facebook is now rolling out Messenger on Oculus Quest and Quest 2 headsets, and trust me, I’m cringing too.

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Messenger will only be available to those who have already connected their Facebook accounts to their Quest or Quest 2 headset, so those who have been holding out on merging their separate Oculus account are safe for now. But if you’re one of those people who bought an Oculus headset after last October, you probably already know that Facebook requires you to log into your account first. It’s understandable if this announcement feels like a bigger attempt by Facebook to take over your gadget—and horde more of your data.

Adding Messenger to Oculus is completely contrary to the entire purpose of VR: immersion. Not only do I not want to read messages inside of the headset, how exactly is someone supposed to respond in Messenger while wearing a Quest? Facebook said in its press release that users can write messages by typing them out in VR, selecting something pre-written, or using its voice-to-text feature, and it didn’t give any details beyond that. Typing via controller thumbstick has never been fast nor convenient, not everyone can type without looking down at the keyboard, and voice-to-text isn’t 100% accurate. It doesn’t always account for regional dialects or speech disabilities.

Illustration for article titled Stop Ruining Oculus, Facebook
Image: Facebook

And, I mean, why would you want to chat with your friends on Messenger in VR when VRChat exists? Thank goodness Facebook is giving you the option to log out of Messenger on on your Oculus headset, which is for the best—the bigger issue here is Facebook’s propensity for data harvesting.

Requiring users to link their Oculus to their Facebook account means the social media already has access to your VR gaming habits, but Facebook collects data from its Messenger app, too.

Illustration for article titled Stop Ruining Oculus, Facebook
Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo
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When Apple released itsprivacy nutrition labels” for the App Store last year, it slapped a CVS-sized receipt on Facebook Messenger. First spotted by 9to5Mac, it turns out Facebook collects an absurd amount of data on its users, including: sensitive info for product personalization, analytics, and app functionality; financial info for third-party advertisers and a mysteriously labeled “other purposes” category; and device ID data.

It’s likely that if you use Messenger in your Oculus, Facebook is going to be collecting data from there, too; According to Apple’s privacy label, Facebook collects data on users’ gameplay content. When the company first announced it would require Oculus users to login with their Facebook accounts, it confirmed that would collect data on users’ “relevant content” on “Oculus activity,” and that data would be used to recommend Oculus events or VR apps.

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Oculus is another means for the company to collect more data on its users, and adding Messenger to the VR platform gives the company more chances to do that. Combine all that with Facebook’s abysmal privacy track record, and honestly, it’s taken all the joy out of VR gaming with an Oculus headset.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

DISCUSSION

ImALeafOnTheWind
ImALeafOnTheWind

Hand tracking inside Oculus Quest is a thing, there’s even an app that does a virtual desktop and shows you a keyboard representation in your VR that overlays and lets you type on a IRL keyboard without taking off your headset. It’s pretty damn amazing, but not perfect yet.

If it means that adding Messenger forces them to put resources to developing improved text input in VR, I wouldn’t actually be mad at that - because there’s implications beyond VR that it would improve quality of life in other accessibility-challenged scenarios.

I hate that FB owns Oculus, but they are also subsidizing many of the advancements that made it one of the most popular VR hardware releases to date. Developers are the real temperature gauge of success - as they are flocking to develop titles for Quest 2 due to increasing user base over all the other VR platforms.

They are like the Nintendo Switch of VR, where it’s certainly not as powerful as the other options - but they get so much right in execution and accessibility that the general public is overlooking what the diehards are complaining about and buying it anyway.

So I’m kind of conflicted as I hate FB, but I also own one and just kind of laugh at the grumpys on the sideline saying “I’m never buying THAT” while I continue to enjoy my Quest 2 Immensely.