Al Franken calls out Oculus Rift over privacy issues

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The Oculus Rift – a new virtual reality headset in which you can watch videos and play games with 360-degree views – started selling out minutes after it went on sale last week, reported Venture Beat.

The $599 device debuted four months after its sister device the Oculus Gear VR, which is similar to the rift but needs a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to operate.

Despite the devices' popularity, Oculus is already being challenged by customers – and U.S. Sen. Al Franken – regarding its privacy policies.

https://twitter.com/SenFranken/status/718138657429975045

What data it collects

The conversation was started last week by Reddit user Woofington, who pointed out a service embedded in the software that sends data from the VR headset to Facebook.

The social media company bought Oculus VR for $2 billion two years ago, according to Tech News Today. The outlet says this story is attracting more attention because Oculus is Facebook-owned and it might get its hands on private information.

Oculus battled a wave of anger when it bought Facebook, reported The Guardian, and had to reassure customers it would still focus on creating games for the VR and retain independence from Facebook.

According to UploadVR, the privacy policy says that information is automatically collected on when, where, and how you interact with content, even tracking your movements in virtual space. Facebook’s Oculus Rift software is constantly on, and regularly sends updates back to Facebook servers.

Furthermore, “third parties may also collect information about you through the Services." Third parties includes this list of "related companies" such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Upload VR points out that some of this information is for mundane uses such as creating an account, enabling user to user communication and improving the user experience. But the privacy policy also states that the information it collects may be used for targeting advertisements.

Franken's response

On Thursday Franken, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Privacy and Technology Subcommittee, sent a letter to the CEO of Oculus VR asking for more information on the privacy policy. He posed a total of six questions, asking if collecting all of this information is necessary and if Oculus VR could be more specific about its third parties. Click here to read Franken's full letter.

Franken has sent similar requests for information to Google, Samsung, Uber and Lyft, according to The Hill.

"One tactic I frequently use is to simply ask these companies to provide more information on their privacy policies, which are often vague, confusing and misleading — maybe all deliberately," he said during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, reported The Hill.

The Oculus VR CEO has until May 13 to answer Franken's questions. However, you can read a statement they released to UploadVR at the end of this article here.

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