It may well be the most popular VR headset on the market, but how private is the Oculus Quest 2? Oculus is, of course, owned by Facebook, who are not exactly renowned for their love of user privacy. They'd much rather have access to every inch of our personal data, in order to monetise it. So the question is, does the Oculus Quest 2 spy on you?
Is it just another tool for surveillance, watching you play games, listening to your conversations, and building up a profile on you as you sleep? Let's find out.
Does Oculus Quest 2 Spy On You?
The Oculus Quest 2 has 4 cameras in-built. So, in theory, there's plenty of hardware that could be used to watch you. However, the Quest 2 is not an "always-on" device. You have to physically switch it on in order to use it. It doesn't sit in the background, forever listening, always watching. Or following you around the house.
The cameras are all set up specifically for gameplay as well, so they all face the same direction. This means that even if they were watching, which they aren't, they'd probably enjoy a nice view of your wall or TV stand when not in use. Facebook has also stated that they don't capture on-device data.
This is then, mostly reassuring. But even if the headset doesn't spy on you, just how private is the Oculus Quest 2?
How Private Is The Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset?
As we know, Facebook wants to know everything about you that it possibly can. It can then use all that data to target you with ads and content, and try to make as much money as possible from you. Also, we know that Facebook doesn't have the best track record when it comes to keeping that data secure. There was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a company harvested millions of users' personal data, and potentially used it to influence elections around the world. More recently, was an enormous data breach where 500 million users had their data appear for free online.
Why is this relevant? Well, as we said earlier, Facebook owns Oculus. And you can't actually use the Oculus Quest 2 without a Facebook account to log in with. And by linking your Facebook account, they can potentially capture a lot of information, such as how often you play on your Quest 2, what games you've purchased, and even start advertising games you might have looked at in your headset, on your Facebook account.
Fortunately, you can adjust your privacy settings in your Quest 2. You can control the following options:
- Who sees your activity
- Choose who can see your friends list
- Decide who will see your Facebook name on Oculus
- And perhaps most importantly, whether or not Facebook stores recordings of your voice from the Voice Commands feature. By default, if you use this function, a voice recording will be stored on facebook's servers.
You can also see what data is linked to your Oculus account by going to the View Your Information section of the Oculus Privacy Centre. It's perhaps also worth going to the Access Your Information page on Facebook, to see what data Facebook has collected on you.
How Private is the Oculus Quest 2?
So how private is the Oculus Quest 2? It isn't spying on you, let's make that clear. But Facebook does use the Quest 2 to collect a variety of information about you as a user. You can read the Oculus data policy here. It lists the type of information they capture and includes things like 'estimated handsize', and information about your environment, physical dimensions and movements. Facebook may use the information it captures to try to make money. This isn't a surprise. But whether you are comfortable with that, only you can decide.
There may be grounds for cautious optimism though. An internal memo from late 2020 was made public (via Big Technology). In that memo, Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth told employees that:
I don't want us to just meet the consumer expectations for privacy today. I want us to differentiate our products on the basis of privacy. Let other companies scramble to keep up with us.
When someone this senior says something, you hope they mean it. As always though, time will tell whether Facebook lives up to this. Or whether the pursuit of growth, money and a higher share price means this gets quietly forgotten.