clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sen. Al Franken raises concerns over Oculus Rift privacy policy

The Rift makes its Capitol Hill debut

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota issued an open letter to Oculus yesterday, questioning the company on how and why it collects data from users of its Rift headset.

"Oculus' creation of an immersive virtual reality experience is an exciting development, but it remains important to understand the extent to which Oculus may be collecting Americans personal information, including sensitive location data, and sharing that information with third parties," Franken wrote. This refers to the privacy policy included on the Oculus website, which details the various types of data collected by Rift users and the channels that have access to this information — such as third party sources.

In a series of six questions addressed to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Franken specifically brings up the Rift's collection of user location data, including how the headset tracks players' physical movements. Franken also asks how long Oculus retains this data and, when outside companies become involved, which source is responsible for the shared user information.

"we're thinking about privacy every step of the way"

The senator's interest in matters of privacy and data mining with Oculus Rift represents the most high-profile interrogation of the company's policy, which has recently been flagged by other outlets. Last week, UploadVR found that installing the Rift's software launches a process that both is always running and sends updates back to Facebook, which owns Oculus.

The site then went in-depth with the company's terms and conditions, voicing concerns about whether Facebook and Oculus planned to use information collected from users for advertising. One line of the policy states that the "always-on" functionality and Rift owners' collected data is used "to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our Services." Rift owners have since openly questioned whether this means that information will be handed off to the social media service or other sites.

Oculus responded with an official statement. "We want to create the absolute best VR experience for people, and to do that, we need to understand how our products are being used and we're thinking about privacy every step of the way," it said.

"The Oculus privacy policy was drafted so we could be very clear with the people who use our services about the ways we receive or collect information, and how we may use it."

Oculus has not yet responded publicly to Franken.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon