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New Oculus update adds Facebook integration, real-names policy

Ever since Facebook bought Oculus several years ago, there’s been fears that the social media company would begin requiring mandatory Facebook integration or would otherwise hijack the VR headset in some way. Oculus’ new 1.8 software update doesn’t make that integration mandatory, but it includes capabilities that may raise eyebrows with its current users.

The new update prompts users to log into Facebook, according to Ars Technica. Once you do, your Oculus username changes to your Facebook real name, without prompting and without any ability to switch it back. Once you sign in via Facebook, all of your friends who own a Rift are automatically populated into your Oculus friends list. But since Oculus Home doesn’t offer any filtering options or the ability to block individuals from seeing what games you’re playing, that means you can either be online and visible to everyone, or online and invisible with no option in-between. It’s not clear if you can remove people once they’ve been added; Oculus’ help pages note that: “When you connect to Facebook, your Oculus friend list is continuously updated so your can share VR easily.”

Oculus continues to promise that Facebook integration will never be mandatory. But its decision to apply a real-names policy and mandatory friends integration are depressingly typical for Facebook. The corporation has a long-standing tradition of destroying user privacy before offering back some of what it took in obfuscated menus and difficult-to-understand settings. That said, there’s no evidence that the company is planning to make Facebook mandatory at any point. Just be aware that if you link Oculus Home to your Facebook account, you may not be able to walk that connection back in the future. If you play games that you might not want your co-workers, family, and friends to know about — and given the stigma still attached to gaming as a time-wasting event, that might include just about anything — it’s best to skip the integration step altogether.

Oculus came under fire earlier this year for some of its privacy and data collection and was asked to submit information to Congress clarifying what it collects and how it uses that information. Recent surveys have suggested that headsets like the Vive, with its integrated motion controllers, are more popular than Oculus Rift, but sales data from HTC and Oculus isn’t currently available. Sony will roll out PlayStation VR in a matter of weeks, and how well or poorly that platform sells will probably set expectations for developers and investors regarding the long-term feasibility of virtual reality.

Some Oculus owners are reporting they aren’t seeing the new Facebook integration even after upgrading to 1.8, so it’s possible that the feature is rolling out slowly in particular areas.

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