Where due, attribution is given: It won’t be long before the annoying Facebook account requirement is dropped from the Meta Quest virtual reality platform, formerly known as Oculus Quest. Starting in August, it was revealed on Thursday, both new and current Quest headset users would be able to access the system’s default operating system and digital download shop without connecting their “real-name” social network profiles to the service.
It’s a wise move to reverse a poor choice like this. I wrote extensively on the risks of VR’s “Facebookening” in 2020, which came about as a result of the Quest VR platform’s requirement for Facebook accounts in place of its previous Oculus account structure. This choice compelled cross-pollination between VR headsets and years’ worth of social media posts and communications, including the cookies and information from related websites and services. It necessitated a degree of “true name” conformity that we have never seen from other significant Western computer devices and operating systems.
And to make matters worse, the action impliedly threatened anyone attempting to circumvent the law by setting up a phoney Facebook account. Famously, Facebook forbids the use of aliases and false identities. Although it doesn’t ask for identification when creating accounts, Facebook has the right to freeze them at any moment if it notices “suspect” behaviour. Usually, the business will need some sort of “formal” picture identification before unlocking an account. Facebook was entirely within its rights (permitted by its terms of service) to keep the account and all of its related software purchases locked away if someone changed the name on their Oculus account to anything like “Guy Incognito” and got caught in a lockdown state.
A better examination into FB decoupling is forthcoming.
As previously stated, several of these most obvious problems will be fixed with the new “Meta Account” system. But will it be sufficient?
It’s difficult to provide a definite response to this query. First, we can’t test a key change because the new account system isn’t yet online. Starting in August, everyone who converted from having an Oculus account to having a Facebook-tied identity would be able to separate all Facebook identity data while setting up a new Meta Account.
We’re interested in how this update will play out, including how software-purchase transfers will operate, what notices might show up on affected Facebook accounts after the transfer, and how forcefully the company will approach the question of whether Quest users are truly willing to separate Facebook from their headset experience. (Meta has already said that users would be able to link their Facebook and Instagram passwords.) As of the time of publication, Facebook personnel have not responded to our inquiries concerning these issues.
There is also the issue of what specific remnants of Facebook user data could exist. We’re still reeling from this week’s well-placed lawsuit accusation regarding Facebook’s stated policy to “undelete” account data that seems to have been erased in response to a request from law enforcement. The charges are “without substance,” according to a Meta representative, but even if that’s the case, we already know that Facebook has made users’ private information available to bidders and publicly modified social media experiences for experimental purposes. We have yet to see confirmation concerning Facebook data detaching from Meta accounts in any of the company’s new ToS disclosures announced this week since Facebook is in the business of gathering as much user data as possible and keeping all pertinent user records available for as long as possible.