Credit where credit is due: Virtual reality platform Meta Quest, formerly known as Oculus Quest, will soon remove its obnoxious Facebook account mandate. As announced on ThursdayBeginning in August, both new and existing Quest headset users will be able to use the system’s default operating system and digital download store without tying their “real name” social media accounts to the service.
This is a good course correction for a bad decision. In 2020, I wrote extensively about the dangers of VR “Facebooking,” which emerged when the Quest VR platform abandoned its existing Oculus account system in favor of required Facebook accounts. This decision forced a cross-pollination between VR headsets and years of social media posts and messages, including the cookies and metadata from connected websites and services. It required a level of “real name” compliance that we’ve never seen from other major Western computing devices and operating systems.
Worse, the move quietly threatened anyone trying to circumvent the rules by creating a dummy Facebook account. Facebook famously bans aliases and false names, and while it doesn’t look for IDs when creating accounts, it can suspend accounts at any time if it detects “suspicious” activity. Typically, to unlock an account, the company will request some sort of “government” photo ID. If someone changed their Oculus account to a name like “Guy Incognito” and got stuck in a banned state, Facebook had every right (granted by its Terms of Service) to keep the account and any associated software purchases banned.
Waiting for a better look at FB decoupling
As announced, the new “Meta Account” system will fix some of these most glaring problems. But will it be enough?
It is difficult to answer this question definitively. First, the new account system isn’t live yet, so we can’t test a crucial aspect of the change. According to Meta, anyone switching from an Oculus account to a Facebook-bound identity can unpair all Facebook identity information while creating a new Meta account starting in August.
We’d like to see what this update looks like: how the transfer of software purchases works, what post-transfer notices might appear on affected Facebook accounts, and how aggressively the company will ask Quest users if this is the case really sure They want to separate Facebook from their headset experience. (Meta has already hinted that users can add Facebook and Instagram credentials if they choose.) Facebook officials have not answered our questions about these concerns as of press time.
It’s also about exactly what traces of Facebook user data may remain. This week we’re still staggering a well-placed accusation coupled with a lawsuit over Facebook’s official policy to “recover” apparently deleted account data. when requested by law enforcement agencies. A meta spokesman said the claims were “unfounded,” but even if that’s true, we already know that Facebook made users’ sensitive data available to bidders and openly manipulated the social media experience for experimentation. Facebook strives to collect as much user data as possible and keep all relevant user records available for as long as possible – so much so that we have yet to find any clarification on decoupling Facebook data from meta accounts in any of the company’s new ToS disclosures unveiled this week.
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