The launch of the Oculus Rift is the first major moment of the coming virtual reality revolution, but despite a solid reception from users, the policies of the company are being questioned when it comes to its data collection and the way it respects the privacy of those who use a headset.
Al Franken, a Democratic United States senator, has now posted a public letter that's addressed to Brendan Iribe, the chief executive officer of Oculus Rift, asking him to offer more details on the way the company collects, stores and then shares information collected from users with other companies.
The main concern seems to be the link that the virtual device creators have with Facebook, which might allow the social network giant to get even more details about people and then use them to better target content and ads.
Al Franken states, “I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes an individual's access to information about what data are being collected about them, how the data are being treated, and with whom the data are being shared. As virtual reality technology evolves, I ask that you provide more information on Rift and how Oculus is addressing issues of privacy and security.”
The senator accepts that sharing collected information can improve virtual reality experiences but also wants to make sure that protections are adequate.
Iribe has six core items to consider and Franke says that he expects to get an answer by May 13.
The VR industry might face privacy questions for a long time Oculus Rift is just one of the major virtual reality devices to launch and more options are coming to the PC at the moment, with the Vive now getting shipped to those who placed a pre-order.
In the fall, Sony will deliver its own PlayStation VR, which has the potential to deliver the biggest overall sales given that it is linked with the already successful PlayStation 4.
Al Franken might be worried about the link between Oculus Rift and Facebook, but these other companies also have the option to share personal data with third parties.
Recently the company has said that information is not yet shared between the two entities, even if this might happen in the coming months, and that Facebook is running some elements of the infrastructure needed to support the VR device.
It seems that at some point ads might arrive on the Oculus Rift and that at that point more information might be exchanged to make sure users get relevant content.