Oculus Quest: Forced Facebook Integration — No Big Deal or Class Action Suit?
May of 2019, Oculus released the Quest headset — a cable-free, untethered VR experience. It became a huge sensation as well as one of the hottest tech for the holiday season; with backorders on the product going all the way out to March 2020. But something else happened during the holidays. All friend and multiplayer party functionality was silently locked behind Oculus’ parent company, Facebook — after seven months of only requiring the basic Oculus account you made when you opened the box.
This was a stealthy, silent move. Users were not notified. There was no warning. One day, you simply could no longer add friends to your Oculus account without being prompted to log into Facebook — an option that had been there all along, of course — just like every other one of Facebook’s holdings like Instagram. Sign in OR log in with Facebook.
Options are good. But only Sith Lords deal in absolutes.
Here Today — Gone Tomorrow
Nobody realized what was going on … at first. Most people had all their friends added already. Quietly, Oculus locked up all social interactions behind Facebook too. No chatting, no messaging — no multiplayer party gaming was possible without logging into Facebook.
Features that all worked for seven months before … just fine, I might add.
One day you could play and talk with your friends; the next day you couldn’t.
It really wasn’t until the holidays were in full swing that people realized that all their friends who got Quest for Christmas suddenly couldn’t be added to their friends list.
Those that reached out to existing friends could no longer engage with them.
… and it was no coincidence that Facebook made their play when they did.
This change in service was also not told to users in advance. Users were not given an opportunity to agree with these changes to the terms and this fact (along with the reduction of functionality without agreeing) may be ripe for a potential lawsuit. There is a reason why large companies make you re-affirm Terms of Service when there are changes; they can be legally liable if you do not agree.
Combating the Retorts
Before we talk about why this change should upset you, let’s rebut a few common retorts that are thrown at you if you finally do say you’re not happy with Facebook being forced on you.
“Quest is a Facebook product — You should have known better”
No, Quest is an Oculus product. Oculus has a parent company; Facebook. Facebook is the parent company of a lot of services — some of which I bet you didn’t know was owned by them.
In EVERY case other than Oculus (that I could find), you are allowed to use that service’s login credentials for service and you are not required to use Facebook credentials (Facebook is an option, of course). Don’t take my word for it; go check these out for yourself.
- Masquerade (MSQRD)
Funny that top apps Instagram and WhatsApp do NOT require Facebook — but Oculus does.
There is absolutely NO behavioral characteristic that can be interpreted that because Facebook owns something — you should EXPECT to be forced into using Facebook exclusively to access those services. Even a Google Pixel phone works without a Google account. Samsung Galaxy works just fine without a Samsung account.
In fact, take a look at the back of the box. Only an Oculus account is required.
There are no requirements disclosed that Facebook is required for usage. That alone sounds legally questionable to me.
So a trip over to their own product page shows no indication that Facebook is required for service. If you dig into their own Terms of Service, there is no mention of Facebook being required. Since an Oculus account IS required for any access, we must assume this is the “an account” in the ToS.
To access and use certain features of the Services, you may be required to register for an account. By creating an account, you agree to: (i) provide accurate, current and complete account information; (ii) maintain the security of your password, not share your password with any other person and accept all risks of unauthorized access to your account; and (iii) promptly provide notice at https://www.facebook.com/whitehat if you discover or otherwise suspect any security breaches related to the Services.
If you keep digging, you’ll find this:
Provide consistent and seamless experiences: Our products help you find and connect with people, groups, businesses, organizations, and others that are important to you. We design our systems so that your experience is consistent and seamless across the different Facebook Company Products (https://www.facebook.com/help/195227921252400) that you use. For example, some of our Services help you connect with your friends on Facebook.
Again, there is no requirement of Facebook here — just that there may be integration points, which we were aware of. Again, sounds like a potentially questionable legal issue.
So the TL;DR version:
I was sold an Oculus product that required (on the product packaging) an Oculus account. Nowhere (that I could find) is there ANY disclosure to the consumer that Facebook is REQUIRED for services and no other Facebook owned service requires Facebook accounts for access.
Let’s move on to the next rebuttal on a common retort.
“Just make a fake Facebook account and never use it except for your Oculus account!”
The proposed purpose of requiring Facebook is to connect you to and provide social services with YOUR FRIENDS. So while you have a fake account, do all of your friends fake accounts? Are they willing to? Your “Fakebook” account can be used to harass your friends.
Fake Facebook accounts are against the Community Standards of Facebook. If you make a fake account, the account can be terminated.
What happens to your Oculus account? I’m betting they could terminate that account too; after all — you should know better.
If your account is determined to be fake (or is even in question), Facebook can contact you demanding a picture of your driver’s license or ID. WHAT? Yes, this is true.
Facebook says it would ask you to upload an id for two reasons: To confirm the account your trying to access is actually yours; or to confirm your name.
So much for using a fake Facebook account.
What else you got?
“I don’t care about Facebook gathering data on me to send me personalized ads. I would like ads for VR stuff.”
You should probably get to know Facebook a little better if you only feel that the company is gathering data to push VR ads at you.
I won’t re-invent the wheel; this is a great article that talks about Facebook data gathering. However I’ll share a couple of excerpts for those that fail to click and read links.
Facebook tracks both its users and nonusers on other sites and apps. It collects biometric facial data without users’ explicit “opt-in” consent.
“Facebook can learn almost anything about you by using artificial intelligence to analyze your behavior,” said Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit. “That knowledge turns out to be perfect both for advertising and propaganda. Will Facebook ever prevent itself from learning people’s political views, or other sensitive facts about them?”
Another slightly more dramatic article talks about some rather spooky Facebook data uses.
… the bigger issue is the fact that the application, which was only downloaded by approximately 270,000 people, also took the information from user’s friends. This means that in short order the application had gathered information from millions of users. Many of the estimated 87 million users that had their information sold to Cambridge Analytica never downloaded the “thisisyourdigitallife” application and never authorized the information to be used in any way.
It is worth noting that anytime you upload a picture, facial recognition is capturing those faces. You probably don’t remember the opt-in for that, do you? That is why Facebook is suffering a class action lawsuit currently.
Do you know what else is almost as distinct as your face? Your movement. Your gait. How your body moves could almost be considered a fingerprint (children can easily identify parents at great distances by body movement alone). A case study shows how easy it is to verify a person based on motion captured by an Xbox Kinect camera.
What else can capture your body motion, gait and other movement characteristics? Oh yeah … virtual reality. Suddenly Facebook’s inherent interest is becoming a bit clearer.
Now, don’t rush to Facebook’s defense by saying that “Google does it” or “Apple does it” or “Samsung does it”. We’re not talking about them in this article.
“Everyone else is doing it!” is never a good excuse. Ask your mother.
“Facebook provides a service and since I’m using it, they should get paid — and I don’t have anything to hide anyway.”
What’s funny about people that make this retort is that they were probably some of the first people to cry foul when Google was forcing Google+ accounts for access to youTube.
The problem here isn’t that you are the sole target of Facebook’s nonsense. They take your friends with you. They take your browsing history, they take your phone information (if you’re silly enough to install that app), they might even be listening to you.
The Return on Investment (ROI) of being able to add a friend to my Oculus Quest isn’t commensurate with what Facebook is taking from me.
Apparently, my data is valuable enough to steal.
Why should this upset you?
So. Back to the real question of the day. Why should anyone be upset?
You bought something made by a company who has Facebook as a parent company — you should have known better. You can always make a Fakebook account. You should be happy to let Facebook have your extensive data in exchange for social services on Quest.