FB login is wholly optional; follows March roll-out of FB integration into GearVR.
This week saw the latest Oculus Rift software runtime begin to roll out to PC users, and the 1.8 version includes one new feature in particular: official Facebook integration. The software update is rolling out in waves, so Oculus owners may not yet have this live on their PCs, but once it rolls out, users are told that “Oculus is better with Facebook friends” and are given the option of logging in to a Facebook account.
To confirm, this is wholly optional, and the service will still operate normally should users not opt in. And in some ways, this change brings Facebook up to speed with other major online gaming platforms such as Steam, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network, which all support Facebook-specific features like searching for friends and posting updates.
However, Oculus’ tie-in to Facebook is different from the others in more aggressively tying FB to a gaming service, according to the Facebook-in-Oculus terms posted to the headset’s official Reddit forum. For starters, should you log in to Facebook via the Oculus Rift’s PC app, your username will change to your real name. If for any reason you’d rather your Oculus username continue to be your favorite gaming handle, whether for privacy’s sake or just because you like the sound of it, you’ll have to avoid the login.
Additionally, according to the update text, once you attach Facebook credentials to an Oculus account, the services will automatically add friends from Facebook to Oculus. Meaning, if someone on your FB friends list eventually buys an Oculus and attaches their FB account to their headset, they’ll automatically be added to your Oculus friends list.
Oculus does not currently allow users to filter their VR friend list. If a coworker automatically lands on your VR friends list, and you don’t want them to see what games you’re playing or at what times, you can only block their access by blocking everyone from seeing your Oculus account information. From the sound of Oculus’ official help page on the matter, deleting a single FB-added user from your Oculus list may not do the trick; as the site reads, “when you connect to Facebook, your Oculus friend list is continuously updated so you can share VR easily.” Thus, Oculus may not currently have a mechanism in place to tell the VR software that certain FB friends should be considered forbidden from your VR world.
These two changes were not included in the Facebook integration that Oculus added to its GearVR app in March. That login instead allowed GearVR users to post Oculus-specific updates to Facebook, play games with connected friends, and see certain Facebook content, such as 360-degree videos, in your GearVR headset.
This development will certainly be cause for concern for American lawmakers such as Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), who wrote an open letter to Facebook in April demanding to know more about “the extent to which Oculus may be collecting Americans’ personal information.”
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey originally insisted that Facebook logins would not be required to use the Oculus Rift. As he wrote on Reddit in 2014, “I guarantee that you won’t need to log into your Facebook account every time you wanna use the Oculus Rift.” Ars has reached out to Oculus to ask whether users should ever expect to have Facebook credentials become a Rift requirement after all; we did not receive a response in time for this report’s publication but will update the report if that changes. Update: An Oculus spokesperson told Ars that Facebook login credentials “will not be required and there are no plans to require it. It will be optional.”