Facebook says it will use consumer data from virtual reality to target ads
Facebook has notified consumers who use Oculus virtual reality headsets that it will collect their data from the gaming world and use it for advertising on the social network.
Facebook made an update to Oculus privacy policies on Thursday, describing how it plans to track players in the virtual world and incorporate that activity into the company's broader understanding of users.
"Facebook will now use information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to help provide these new social features and more relevant content, including ads," Oculus wrote in a blog post. "Those recommendations could include Oculus Events you might like to attend or ads for VR apps available on the Oculus Store."
Facebook bought Oculus in 2014 for $2.3 billion and has developed the gaming and entertainment platform into one of the pillars of its business as it sees virtual reality as one of the most fertile areas for growth. The new policies illuminate how Facebook leverages all parts of its platform for a data advantage.
In virtual reality, there are extensive ways to mine consumer insights, according to the data policies. Oculus collects information about how users interact with people, games and apps. It can incorporate in-app purchases into its profiles of users, for instance. It collects information from voice commands issued in Oculus, the policies say. It also collects location information.
The activity on Oculus can help refine advertising on Facebook's related properties, and it also helps the social network tailor its services. "Facebook will use your Oculus account information and information about your use of Oculus products to provide, personalize and improve Facebook Company Products, including to personalize the ads you see on and off Facebook Company Products," Oculus says in its blog post.
There is an option to create an Oculus account without linking it to Facebook. "If you choose not to log into Facebook on Oculus, we won’t share data with Facebook to allow third parties to target advertisements to you based on your use of the Oculus Platform," the blog post says.
The privacy changes come just as the California Consumer Privacy Act—which will force big tech companies to be more transparent about how they manage people's data—is about to take effect in 2020. Facebook is also under investigation from U.S. regulators and lawmakers examining how the company integrates the platforms it has acquired, including Oculus, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Trade Commission might seek an injunction to prevent Facebook from integrating the platforms with its main business—a move that could precede a broader push to force Facebook to separate its businesses. Anti-trust experts say that the FTC would have a hard time making the case for an injunction.