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Minnesota Senator Investigates Oculus Rift Privacy Practices

Concerned by the company's privacy policy, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter to the CEO of Oculus to find out more about how the virtual reality device is obtaining information from users.

by Hannah Madans, The Orange County Register / April 11, 2016
Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey demonstrates the consumer version of the Rift virtual reality headset. Flickr/eVRydayVR

(TNS) -- The Oculus Rift’s privacy policy has raised concerns from users and now a U.S. lawmaker.

The virtual reality device, which was conceived in Irvine where the company was founded in 2012, allows the company to gather information including a user’s location, movements and interactions to use for promotional purposes.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) has sent a letter to Oculus Chief Executive Brendan Iribe asking whether or not the company shares the information with third parties.

“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,” the letter states.

Consumers, Franken writes, “must be able to make informed decisions about whether and with whom they share such sensitive information, and they must be assured that, when the information is shared, it will receive the utmost protection. However, questions remain regarding Oculus’ data collection of certain types of information and Oculus’ relationships with third parties.”

Franken is known as a consumer advocate who has called into question privacy policies of companies such as Uber.

Iribe has so far not responded to Franken’s letter.

The Rift, which is debuting this month as a consumer device, ran into trouble earlier this week when production issues stalled pre-order deliveries.

Pre-orders for the $599 Rift started in January. It includes a headset with removable headphones, an external camera that tracks head movement, an Xbox One wireless controller and an input device that allows users to manipulate objects.

The virtual reality segment is quickly filling up as tech companies converge on technology. Prices for first-generation VR headsets range widely.

Playstation VR, which will be released in October, will cost $399. The HTC Vive, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday, costs $799. Some Vive orders have been delayed because of a payment processing error, according to the company’s blog.

Oculus was bought in 2014 by Facebook for $2 billion. The company shifted from Irvine to Menlo Park to be closer to Facebook.

©2016 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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