Meta will start collecting “anonymized” data about Quest headset usage (Ars Technica)

In an email sent to Quest users Monday, Meta notes that it currently collects “the data required for your Meta Quest to work properly.” Starting with the next software update, though, the company will begin collecting and aggregating “anonymized data about… device usage” from Quest users. That anonymized data will be used “for things like building better experiences and improving Meta Quest products for everyone,” the company writes.

I can’t verify these changes, as I didn’t receive the email mentioned for our Quest accounts. Did anyone?

That document lists a host of personal information that Meta can collect from your headset, including:

  • “Your audio data, when your microphone preferences are enabled, to animate your avatar’s lip and face movement”
  • “Certain data” about hand, body, and eye tracking, “such as tracking quality and the amount of time it takes to detect your hands and body”
  • Fitness-related information such as the “number of calories you burned, how long you’ve been physically active, [and] your fitness goals and achievements”
  • Information about your physical environment and its dimensions” such as “the size of walls, surfaces, and objects in your room and the distances between them and your headset”
  • Voice interactions” used when making audio commands or dictations, including audio recordings and transcripts that might include “any background sound that happens when you use those services” (these recordings and transcriptions are deleted “immediately” in most cases, Meta writes)
  • Information about “your activity in virtual reality,” including “the virtual reality events you attend”

The situation is a bit confusing, also because of different set of terms privacy-related terms apply, depending on using a Meta versus and Oculus account (soon to be disabled), etc. Android Authority has a statement from a Meta spokesperson:

A user can choose to share identifiable data with us to help us improve Meta Quest products. But we are constantly evolving our privacy models to maximize the use of anonymized data over identifiable data where we can, so we began collecting anonymized data to help us improve Meta Quest products. Anonymized data is more privacy-protective for our users because it does not identify them. This is one way we’re continuing to deploy privacy-enhancing technologies for people who use Quest. You can learn more here.

This sounds like all kinds of data were already being sent from Quest devices, but now they will be sent anonymized instead of identifiable (so it’s not additional data)?