Oculus software said to be always on, privacy worries arise

Oculus has just recently launched the consumer version of its Rift VR headset and, aside from some delays in shipping, things look good for the company so far. Reviewers are still on the fence about virtual reality in general but most seem to be quite positive about the experience using the Oculus Rift. However, Oculus commercial journey has just begun and already it might be entangled in some controversy around the thorniest of topics these days: privacy. The Oculus services installed on PCs have been discovered to always be running. Coupled with some privacy policies, the situation is raising some alarms for some people.

The issue is part technical and part legal conjecture. The technical part is perhaps harder to deny. When installing the Oculus Rift for use, it installs a few Windows services that run in the background. That might be normal as some of those services are used to keep the Oculus PC software up to date. However, further investigation revealed that even if the Oculus Home app is shutdown, those services remain running and, perhaps worse, actually constantly "phone home" every few seconds, with network traffic measured at 1.5 KB/s to 7 MB/s at the highest.

In this case, "home" happens to be Facebook's servers, which is the other half of the story and where the problems start to appear. At least theoretical problems. Oculus has a few terms in its Privacy Policy that are causing concern for the more privacy-conscientious users. In particular, agreeing to Oculus' terms means agreeing to let it automatically collect some data from apps, cookies, local storage, pixels, and other "similar technologies". The rather broad and sometimes ambiguous wordings, particular for the local storage part, has irked a good number of Oculus users. Plus, the fact that those same Privacy Policies do explicitly mention that information can be used for advertisement.

Truth be told, something like this isn't actually new and many of the services we use today use similar terms, perhaps except for the local storage part. What aggravated the situation, however, is the fact that Facebook is Oculus' parent company and, therefore, may have access to those pieces of information about the user. The social networking giant isn't exactly well-loved when it comes to privacy matters.

Interestingly, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey replied to the Reddit thread but didn't actually provide any sort of explanation, other than what some would consider an ad hominem argument. The company is being called on for an official statement and we'll keep you posted if Oculus indeed decides to respond.

SOURCE: Reddit