Stop Ruining Oculus, Facebook

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.

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.

Image: 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.

Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

When Apple released its “privacy 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 personalisation, analytics, and app functionality; financial info for third-party advertisers and a mysteriously labelled “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.

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.