The pushback on Oculus’s announcement that it will migrate customers onto the main Facebook profile system is hotting-up, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wades in.
For anyone unfamiliar, the EFF is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the 90s, which aims to protect the rights of digital users. Its involvement is a sign that the Facebook move is not going to go away quietly.
In a blog post entitled “If Privacy Dies in VR, It Dies in Real Life“, the organization warns of dystopian disaster, if the industry isn’t better regulated.
The company explains that “this budding industry has inherited a lot of issues from their creator” and that “there’s a chance they will creep into all of our personal and professional lives guided by the precedents set today.”
It goes on to point out that Facebook assured users at the time it purchased Oculus that they would not need a Facebook login to keep using their devices. Fast forward a few years and there’s been something of a backtrack.
The piece continues with a stark warning.
“Eliminating alternative logins can force Oculus users to accept Facebook’s Community Standards, or risk potentially bricking their device. With this lack of choice, users can no longer freely give meaningful consent and lose the freedom to be anonymous on their own device.”
Of course, for our purposes, Facebook isn’t really bothered whether it upsets users of adult products, because technically, as far as Oculus is concerned, they don’t exist. We’ve talked elsewhere about why this is an unhelpful attitude to take.
EFF goes on to point out that the level of telemetry that can be collected by VR devices goes beyond anything we’ve seen before. Data can be collected on everything from your gait, to the way you move, to a blow-by-blow (possibly literally) report on how we react to stimulus – all of which advertizers, and worse, can use to weaponize against us. That’s all in addition to the usual stuff about what we do and what we do it with.
The EFF pleads that companies like Oculus need to do more than think about privacy. “Industry leaders need to commit to the principles of privacy by design, security, transparency, and data minimization. By default, only data necessary to core functions of the device or software should be collected; even then, developers should utilize encryption, delete data as soon as reasonably possible, and have this data stay on local devices.“
And that’s just the start. It goes on to suggest that mergers (such as Facebook and Oculus) need to be regulated, and that left unchecked, we could end up in an even bigger mess than with other ‘wild west’ advances, like smart homes and apps.
“Developers, users, and government must ensure it does not ride its hype into an inescapable, insecure, proprietary, and privacy-invasive ecosystem,” it warns. And it’s hard to disagree with that.
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