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Oculus: We Don't Share Location Data With Third Parties

Oculus says that it does not "currently" share location information with third parties or related companies, beyond "leveraging Facebook's infrastructure"—it is a Facebook company—to deliver its services to consumers and says that privacy is a key part of the product lifecycle of its VR technology.

That came in a letter to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), a copy of which was supplied by the Sen. Franken, which sought input on how the Oculus Rift VR system used and shared its data.

The answers appeared to create no "rift" with Franken, who characterized them as detailed but also said he would continue "working with the company" to make sure Oculus users "have greater clarity about the company’s current practices and are provided necessary updates about any future uses of their personal information.”

Oculus says it may, in the future, use the location info to choose which server people connect to reduce latency (a key factor in VR) but will incorporate privacy and security in that effort.

The company said that to build the best VR products and experiences, it shares and stores the data necessary to provide its service, including de-identified and aggregated data to developers.

While it did not directly answer Franken's question about whether it sold data to third parties, it did say that it shared data "as necessary to provide our services and enhance the availability of relevant VR products for people." It also did not outline under what circumstances it might sell data if it weren't doing so now, another question Franken asked.

Oculus told Franken that it explains to users via its privacy policy how it collects, uses and shares information and that the security of that information from cyberattacks is "critical" to its success. That includes participating in the "bug bounty" program that has paid out millions to those who can find chinks in the cybersecurity armor of Facebook companies.

Franken asked whether it was necessary to collect information on a user’s physical movements. The company said yes, it was essentially part and information parcel of the VR experience, citing Oculus Toybox, which allows multiple people to pick up and play with virtual objects together. It said the "real-time" transmission of lifelike movements into a digital environment is not only necessary to providing our services, it is the core of providing an immersive and realistic virtual reality experience."

As to sharing that info, Oculus said it was also necessary to share it with developers, including its Facebook partner, but also with other developers whose Toybox-like applications can be downloaded via the Oculus VR platform.

As to retaining information, Oculus said it needs to store Oculus user information, including for its support forum, where user posts are stored. It also said it may retain some records of users of its Oculus Social video sharing platform that allows users to communicate via VoIP but said it did not store that info beyond temporary caching necessary for far-flung users.

Franken, ranking member and former chair of the Senate Privacy, Technology and the Law, has been a leading voice for protecting online privacy.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.