Fs in the Chat

Not sure why I’m writing this. It feels like I’m screaming into the void. Am I being petulant? Am I naive? Over-reacting?

This week Facebook wrote about updating the privacy policy for Oculus. And holy shit are we headed for a fucked-up dystopian nightmare.

The day has finally arrived.

We all saw it coming, when Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014.

We saw it coming, when WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton left Facebook with his famous #deletefacebook tweet.

We saw it coming, when the Instagram cofounders suddenly quit their jobs at Facebook, saying “No one ever leaves a job because everything’s awesome, right?”.

We fucking saw it coming when one by one, the original founders of Oculus all left, including the beloved Oculus CTO John Carmack, just one month ago.

I saw it coming, which is why I never linked my Oculus Go to a Facebook account (spoiler alert: I don’t have one). There was only one feature that I couldn’t use (Oculus Rooms), but the rest worked fine, and there was no Facebook privacy policy that I had to sign.

But that’s all about to change.

Oculus announced, in a very broadly worded policy update, that it will start tracking VR usage data, and sharing that data with Facebook, in order to serve you ads across its numerous platforms.

As part of these changes, Facebook will now use information about your Oculus activity … to help provide [social features] and more relevant content, including ads.

Oculus Blog, December 11, 2019

Icing on the cake: in order to connect to multiplayer on the Oculus platform, you’ll need a Facebook account.

Kill it with fire.

Let’s talk about what VR data includes, right now:

  • Attention detection (what’s you’re paying attention to)
  • Gait detection (how you walk is as personally identifiable as your fingerprint)
  • Analytics (what you’re playing, how long)
  • Room coordinates (the shape of your home)

And let’s talk about what VR data includes when the Oculus Quest 2 is released:

  • Gaze detection (what you’re looking at)
  • High resolution photos of your retinas
  • Object detection (the real-world things you have in your house)

Maybe you look at this list and respond like this guy:

Who am I kidding? David is probably right. This “experiment” with privacy was doomed from the start. Crazy to think we could ever go toe-to-toe against corporate capitalist America!

It paints a pretty bleak picture of the future. You can’t beat an algorithm that’s trained to defeat your impulse control, by designing psychologically manipulative ads made specifically for your psychological profile.

So what can you do? You could boycott (I do), but with Facebook selling the Oculus Quest at a loss, that’s just a stand of principle, not effective group action.

Here’s hoping we all drown in rising boiled oceans before Mark Zuckerberg becomes the immortal sentient AI overlord of Earth.