Is a Meta Account Extra Non-public Than a Fb Account for Oculus Quest 2?
One of the major criticisms of Meta’s purchase of Oculus and subsequent control of the Quest line of VR headsets was that Meta required users to log into the headset through Facebook, which Meta also owns. This policy was a privacy red flag, but it also created usability problems. What if a headset was shared? What if a user didn’t have a Facebook account?
Meta eventually announced that Quest users would no longer need a Facebook login. Instead, they could create a meta account. This solved a lot of those usability problems but, is it more private for users?
“Meta” is the new name of “Facebook Company” as of October 2021. This is the conglomerate that owns the social media companies Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It’s also the conglomerate that purchased VR pioneer Oculus in 2014, and several game studios and other tech companies since then.
Oculus still exists as an entity and does Meta’s VR software development. When they were their own company, there was such a thing as an “Oculus account” required to sign into the headsets. Some kind of account is necessary to do things like buy and manage apps, after all. However, Meta retired the Oculus account in lieu of a Facebook login requirement.
Seeing the problems above, including vocal pushback from users, Meta stopped requiring a Facebook login in August 2022. Instead, they need a “Meta account.” But, if Meta owns Facebook, isn’t having a Meta account at least as bad as having a Facebook account from a privacy perspective?
Some argue that there’s no real difference between using a Meta account and using a Facebook account from a privacy perspective. Others believe that the Meta account requirement is better than a Facebook account requirement. Trying to decide who’s right is less rewarding than presenting both sides of the discussion.
There are a few strong pillars holding up this position. Whether you support it or not, the common ground we all walk on is that Meta owns Facebook.
Meta Gets Your Info Either way
There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about Facebook. It can be tempting to think that giving your data to anyone else is an improvement. But, Meta owns Facebook anyway. Let’s put it another way:
Suppose that you know someone that you see at work as well as socially. There’s something you’re afraid to tell this person, so you tell them at work. This person might keep your secret around friends (or might not) but either way they still have the information. So, giving your information to Meta might just be giving your information to Facebook wearing a different hat.
Two accounts for double the info
Not only does Meta still get the information, but they also get information that you might not have given Facebook. For example, because most Quest 2 apps and games aren’t free, you’re more likely to enter payment information into your Quest account than your Facebook account (unless you use your credit card to buy bonuses in Candy Crush).
More than that, Quest has its own browser. So, if you were worried about Facebook accessing your web activity, a Meta account is at least as bad. That’s to say nothing of the cameras and sensors that a VR headset needs to work properly, which can become a bottomless pit of suspicion for Meta critics.
This argument is even more impactful if you choose to link your Meta account to your Facebook account through Meta’s accounts center. You don’t have to do this but, if you do, you’re pretty much connecting the dots between these accounts for Meta.
It could be argued that these are moot points as far as the Meta account is concerned. After all, these things are required for a VR headset and ecosystem. So, they aren’t new concerns since Meta accounts appeared, as they’ve been true since Facebook bought Oculus. They’ve even been true since Meta replaced the Oculus login with a Facebook login.
Despite all of the criticisms of the move, Facebook accounts and Meta accounts are different. Yes, that does make a difference.
VR and social media are different
Think about the information that you enter into Facebook. Your name, your family and friends, probably where you work and went to school. Maybe what you think and believe. Maybe payment info, maybe not. This information has to be input accurately and honestly for the platform to work as intended.
Now, think about the information that you enter into a VR account – arguably about the same as you enter into a game console at this point. Maybe your real name, maybe not. Maybe your personal friends, maybe not. Payment info, probably. Probably not your family. Probably not where you work. Probably not what you think and believe.
Friend suggestions were a good example of this in the days of the Facebook requirements. When a Facebook friend linked their accounts to a Quest, other Quest users in their Facebook network got notifications. This doesn’t happen when you sign in with a Meta account because your Meta account doesn’t know (or pretends not to know) who your Facebook friends are.
You Don’t Need a Facebook Account
So far, we’ve been weighing the cons of a Meta account against the cons of a Facebook account. However, since the Meta account option, you don’t need a Facebook account to use a Quest.
If you want to use a Quest but deleted your Facebook account or never had one, you can do that now. Before, the only option was to create a Facebook account just to use your Quest.
Pick Your Poison
For most people, this is an academic exercise. Most people don’t think twice about giving data in exchange for services because that’s just how the world works these days. If you’re more discerning, you have some thinking to do.
It’s true that using a VR headset means giving some of your info to someone. And it’s true that, if you want to use Quest, that means giving some of your info to Meta. However, giving info to Meta no longer means giving your info to Facebook. That’s particularly true if you use Meta and Facebook in ways that are mindful of your data privacy.