It’s not just savvy PC gamers who have worries about virtual reality privacy.

Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota sent a letter to Oculus chief executive officer Brendan Iribe on Thursday expressing his concern over the privacy policy for the company’s Rift virtual reality headset (via Fortune). His worries come from the kind of information the Rift gathers, including movement and location data, and that it might share it with Oculus’ parent company, Facebook, or other groups.

“In addition to collecting information provided by consumers, Oculus automatically collects information when the consumer uses Oculus’ services,” Franken’s letter states. “Information about consumers’ physical movements and dimensions, as well as location data, can be shared with ‘other companies that are within the family of related companies that Oculus is a part of.’ The company’s privacy statement also indicates that Oculus may share de-identified or aggregated data with others for any purpose. Furthermore, the information Oculus collects can be shared with third parties to directly market products to consumers on or off Oculus’ platform. When done appropriately, the collection, storage, and sharing of personal information may enhance consumers’ virtual reality experience, but we must ensure that Americans’ very sensitive information is protected.”

He goes on to ask Oculus why the collection of user data is necessary, if it is properly protecting that information, and if it is selling that info to other companies or sharing it with them. He requested that Oculus answer his questions by May 13. Will Mason, editor of UploadVR, brought the privacy problem to the attention of Franken after posting about it on April 1.

Collecting user info is not uncommon for devices connected to the Internet, but people have become more sensitive about the invasion of privacy that these practices can bring. Many companies can give that data to marketers who then use it to target ads for specific audiences. Virtual reality is a relatively new market (headsets alone are expected to bring in $895 million this year, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics), so it brings with it new questions about user privacy.


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