Facebook Horizon is shaping up to be an interesting social VR offering with powerful building tools that will allow players to create and share their own worlds. But equally powerful are tools the company has baked into Horizon for monitoring users and enforcing Facebook’s version of appropriate behavior.

While Facebook would like users to think that hanging out in Horizon is no less private than being in a public space, there’s several huge differences.

First, all the users in Horizon are involuntarily recording each other. The last few minutes of everything that users see and hear is recorded on a rolling basis. Facebook says this recording is stored on the headset itself, unless one user reports another, at which point the recording may be sent to Facebook to check for rule violations. The company says that the recording will be deleted once the report is concluded.

Second, anyone you interact with can invite an invisible observer from Facebook to come surveil you and your conversations in real-time to make sure you don’t break any rules. The company says this can happen when one user reports another or when other “signals” are detected, such as several players blocking or muting each other in quick succession. Users will not be notified when they’re being watched.

And third, everything you say, do, and build in Horizon is subject to Facebook’s Community Standards. So while in a public space you’re free to talk about anything you want, in Horizon there a many perfectly legal topics that you can’t discuss without fear of punitive action being taken against your account.

Facebook laid out these observation and moderation tools in a “Horizon Safety Video” and explained them in further detail in an interview with Road to VR.

Transparency & Authenticity

Facebook loves to throw around the word “transparent” with regard to its stand on privacy and user tracking, and they seem to have truly taken the word to heart… after all, what’s more “transparent” than an invisible stranger that may or may not be watching you at any given moment?

Facebook also loves to use the word “authentic.” And what could make a community more authentic than ensuring that all users are constantly recording each other and are just a click away from sending behavior they don’t like to a corporation for analysis?

“Unsettling” is the word that comes to my mind when I think about these features. Yes, Horizon should be a place where people can come and have fun without fear of being trolled or exposed to vile behavior, but is the introduction of another fear—potentially being monitored at any given moment without your knowledge—really the best answer? I don’t think so.

Corporate-approved Behavior

The thing about real public spaces is that what happens in them—beyond what’s outright illegal—is up to the people inhabiting the space. In Horizon it feels much more like the space is making the rules, not the people. And in this case, the space is Facebook.

Facebook’s approach to privacy in Horizon is not much different than if the company tried to police real public spaces by using the Facebook app on everyone’s phone to constantly record their conversations just on the off chance that someone breaks the corporation’s approved social guidelines.

SEE ALSO
New Oculus Users Required to Use Facebook Account Starting in October, Existing Users by 2023

Before I thought about it much, when it came to privacy, I was roughly in the camp of ‘what’s to worry about if you have nothing to hide?’. But at one point someone said something utterly simple that made me understand the naivety of that position: “If you knew you were being watched every time you searched for something on Google, would it change what you searched for?”

My answer is a definitive yes, and I think any honest person would agree. Even though I’m not searching for anything illegal, simply the act of being watched would change my behavior. And this is precisely the issue with Horizon’s privacy model… even if nobody is breaking the rules, being watched—or the possibility of unknowingly being watched—changes behavior.

Don’t Blink—This is the Start of the Metaverse

And you still might say “so what, Horizon is just a game.” But the most important thing to understand about all of this is that Horizon is Facebook’s proto-metaverse. The company has been quite public about its goal of bringing one billion people into VR; the privacy norms Facebook is establishing now will deeply influence the way those billion people interact with each other in the future. Should Facebook get to write the guidelines for how they communicate and decide how private their conversations should be?

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  • It seems a bit what China does in the real world to “have a healthy society”. The positive result is that there are very few criminals, the negative one is that you always feel that you can’t truly express yourself

    • Larry Rosenthal

      the criminals are still there. they just now own the system.

      • Sven Viking

        Be warned that Larry Rosenthal has been designated as a criminal for seditious thinking, and reading his message will therefore endanger your social credit score.

    • Adrian Meredith

      So what your saying is, if you criticise Facebook or your avatar is the wrong race you should expect your account to disappear without warning

      • Linked

        How is race a thing here? actually dont answer that, I fear the response may make us all dumber.

        • Adrian Meredith

          I’m referencing the ethnic cleansing china is currently engaged in.
          When someone or something gives themselves executive power to do a thing for a particular reason then they’ll find a reason

          • Darshan

            Why there need to race in VR in first place? isn’t it thing we all wish to escape from in first place when entering meta verse. do your avatar must physically resemble you? what is point of VR then if you can’t be what you wish to be, its the promise Gear VR was introduced with “We made what can’t be made so that you can do what can’t be done.” IMO one must have Independence be anything in VR a Talking Tree-man Groot or hell Cassowaries too.

          • ckombo

            That’s what you want. Others may want something else.

          • Darshan

            Agreed, Race discrimination while in VR shouldn’t be big factor was my point.

    • Darshan

      you can’t express negativity hate and spread untrue things…. which in my opinion are good. i live in country where in name of democracy many people so much miss use this defecto freedom of speech, that you get rage why there is no control on such morons. so yes little control is necessary unless everyone around you are best of humanity.

      • Ad

        Facebook is full of hate and untrue things. Until last week they were feeding people ads for crazed conspiracy theories if they looked up traditional medicine.

        • Darshan

          Yet traditional medicines can give tremendous result when treated by experienced and knowledgeable provider. Take example corona, For so long there was no sure treatment only treatment was for symptom controls. This situation is largely miss used by many corporate hospitals in my country for almost looting everyone who got their doorstep. At same time many wonderful nephropathy doctors have successfully treated mild cases without any big bills. Again not suggesting one need to go to witch-doctors we need to focus on all medication and natural first while practicing treatment of deceases which has no known cure same time keeping vigilant eye on health status and statistics. I advocate nephropathy but no witch doctors.

          • Sven Viking

            I don’t personally advocate nephropathy (kidney disease), but that’s just me.

      • NooYawker

        LMAO.. negativity, hate and the spread of untrue things are rampant on Facebook. They aren’t going to or care to stop any of those things. It’s just what they say the reason they’re listening and recording everything you say and do when you die their products.

    • Kevin White
    • MW

      Only scumbags are happy living under dictatorship. I know what I’m talking about (live behind iron curtain). People are not cow’s to be happy having food, and roof. People from west forget about it. But don’t worry- history repeats itself.

  • Kisato

    Big Brother truly is watching in Facebook’s premier social VR app, it seems, lol.

  • Adrian Meredith

    This is about as dark and dystopian as you can get. You had a chance to make it better than real life and you went straight to a police state. I hate to quote “The Last Jedi” but it luke when like tells Rey “that’s a place of pure darkness, and you went straight to it”

    • dsadas

      If they give us two options… Like “paradise” and “free west” or “paradise” and “wild west” or anything like that, then it’s ok. Anyway, if they do not give us any option, which very probably they won’t … it’s yet another marxism brain fart from murica. God, I hate america. And what is worse is that little by little the rest of the world it’s getting pulled to the dark side.

      • Stella Cannefax

        fyi marxists hate this

        • BiovizierMantrid

          There are apparently a lot of them that don’t understand what it means. Damn, I came her to read about video games. Can’t escape this crap.

      • brandon9271

        The silent majority of Americans hate Marxism.

  • Blaexe

    Being able to report people and send a few minutes of video with it is okay imo. But they should really drop the “we can watch you invisibly” feature. That creates a tension that’s not really necessary.

    • Jorgie

      Horizons is an MMO. Moderators on MMO servers have always been able to invisibly watch what your avatar is doing, see text chat, and hear you if you have proximity based voice chat turned on. This is not new, it is normal for an MMO.

      • Blaexe

        Horizon should represent a virtual life. It’s a way more personal thing and only will develop more into that direction with future body tracking, eye tracking and so on.

        It’s not a fair comparison, no matter how you look at it.

        • James Cobalt

          Well, in many public spaces you are invisibly monitored, so this doesn’t seem that different in that respect either.

  • IcedForce

    So it turns out to be Rec Room with some more freedom but with constant recording for “safety” (remember Facebook has a parts in their Community Standards where they promise authenticity and privacy, which probably by now everyone knows to be lies where Facebook does nothing to stop fake ads, straight out scams and is very politically motivated and privacy, well, other Facebook users can’t see your data but any company can buy all of that with few cents). At first it might be just few minutes locally but Facebook is one of the biggest data hoarders out there and it is its bread to collect everything, so sooner or later everything will be recorded and stored in Facebook servers and used for ads or something “funny” as Cambridge Analytica (which probably was only the tip of the iceberg) and it’s only question of time when anyone can buy your whole play session as a neat video to use for whatever they like.

    But like always probably even now the more intelligent voices warning for stuff are muted by the sheeps who still, after all that has happened, scream how “Facebook is good” and how “It does good for VR” and “There’s nothing to fear, they will keep your privacy and their promises” like they did when Facebook bought Oculus, when Luckey was kicked from Facebook, when company named “Oculus” ceased to exists, when almost every keypeople from Oculus left Facebook and now when it is official one thing Facebook will never do is keep their words if they are hindering them from data hoarding even more and using that data with everything else they have.

  • Rosten

    Some people read dystopian SF books and nod “hm hm, good idea”.

    • Kevin White

      Exactly. Technocrats. These are supposed to be cautionary tales, not guidebooks.

  • gothicvillas

    Honestly, Facebook can give the headsets out for free and I won’t take one.

    • Patrick Hogenboom

      Unfortunately it’s not about us, the VR enthusiasts anymore.
      It’s about the masses now, and they won’t be so critical.

      • Darshan

        If there will be masses who wish to enter the platform. its voluntary and if its not something bling certainly it wont click. Many things are worth worry but only future can answer to them.

      • Ad

        The masses hate facebook, and if they don’t care it’s often because they don’t understand. We have a responsibility to warn them. We’re talking a about children, the elderly, schools, families. They shouldn’t be subjected to this.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          The masses don’t hate facebook, otherwise facebook would have been gone already.. YOU think they shouldn’t use these things, but others disagree, YOU think they are only doing nasty things.. Please try to have an open mind, I know you are blinded by hatred as it’s clear in almost any of your posts.. Yes people should be aware, but this is nothing different than in most online games, especially where younger people are allowed.

          • Ad

            They have a monopoly, where else could people go? That’s like saying people don’t hate cable companies because those companies still exist, even though those companies have the lowest customer satisfaction in the country.

          • Darshan

            How about totally not using what one is not agree with, is facebook forcing registration? Do we still have billions of active FB users? Agreed, there area many giant loop holes in whole system but same you can say for any other system that exists. we don’t stop walking in streets because many accidents happening in a day around globe on street killing thousands if not millions of people same applies for most of the things. One must always be on guard when being online and directly control kids on what they are watching/doing as much as one can do.

          • mirak

            It’s different because you are not forced to go on social networks, unlike having an internet connection is pretty mandatory nowadays.

            But yes, social networks are not standardised like phone, email, world wide web.

            The value of Facebook is it’s people network anyway. I don’t see how it can be broken without dismantling it.

          • Bob Smith

            Facebook has a well known and documented history of amoral corporate behavior and the more we learn about the negative effects of social media, the more those of us who care about the mental well-being of our society will stand up and say: Enough.

            I justified my purchase of the CV1 because I could afford it and because Oculus still existed as a company though owned by Facebook. But now it has been completely consumed. I’d sooner give up VR altogether than support Facebook’s vision of “surveillance VR.” Fortunately for now at least, there are alternatives.

            Choose wisely.

          • Mattphoto

            Where is this documentation? Is is amoral or just not lined with your or your country’s specific morals? Is it Facebook or the users on facebook using it as a free speech platform? Have you thought this through?

          • Jim P

            Lib much. Mark and all the others iPhone,google MS etc have a GOD complex. That is very bad. When they filter your speech and want to control you.

          • dmbfk

            Two word sentences that end in ‘much’ are the real hallmark of a twat.

          • Jim P

            Just telling the truth so it angers you please don’t burn a business down or riot.

          • dmbfk

            you be simple

          • Gla

            Huh
            Its nothin like online gamin you fuckin tool. think longer before arguing with people

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Maybe you are the one that should think before arguing with people (especially if you start calling people ‘fuckin tool’). It IS exactly as with online gaming, as there are many games which have moderators being able to watch and listen during a match after people have reported something (or even without reporting). So yeah, it is like online gaming..

        • NooYawker

          There’s more than enough idiots to keep Facebook rolling in data and money.

        • Mattphoto

          Got news for you, bro, any app that uses firebase analytics can and do see what you are doing in real time. What you THINK facebook does, is what pretty much all your apps do. We are talking any mom and pop developer that has a worse or no track record of keeping data secure.

      • james beaumont

        Damn right we won’t.
        We simply won’t care.
        But we will be enjoying ourselves.

    • Kevin White

      They’ll have to charge a nominal fee of high enough dollars so that the normies don’t get too suspicious and refuse them.

    • james beaumont

      Yeah you would..
      Relax, forget about Mr Big and just enjoy yourself.

      • Bob Smith

        Mark Zuckerberg knows what’s good for us. There is no reason to question his intentions whatsoever. He only wants to make us happy. If there were any negative consequences for Facebook’s users, he would just stop everything no matter how much money he was making. Just relax and enjoy your new reality.

      • NooYawker

        Ignorance is bliss

    • Kryojenix

      If they were giving them out for free, I would take several under different pseudonyms and bury them in a peat pit…

  • fuyou2

    FUYOU2 HORIZON!

    • EliteForceCinema

      Are you trying to say you want Oculus to go out of business for good and get all of their employees to go bankrupt and homeless because you think Oculus is owned by Facebook and that you think Facebook is bad? Cause it sounds like you are, you HTC Vive and SteamVR fantard!

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    They should just rename it Horizon: Spyware.

  • johann jensson

    Glad i’m not interested in such cr@p. My main criterium for a software these days is “can it be used completely offline?”, and the decisions come very easy. []-)

  • Tommy

    This is really scary. I love VR but I don’t want invisible people indirectly listening on my conversation all the time. I guess I need to find another playground for my VR activities. This worse than China. Even China can’t listen all the time.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      I guess you shouldn’t be playing any online games then, because this is available in many MANY online games too..

      • Caven

        In a typical game, there’s the general expectation that the conversation will be on-topic, and that there will be moderation to prevent harrassment and cheating.

        To look at it a different way, if I’m part of a basketball team, I expect a referee to pay attention to make sure nobody is abusing the rules. In a public park, I do not expect someone to be monitoring everyone to make sure conversations are only about “approved” topics.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Except this isn’t like a public park, but more like a public chatroom, which in a lot of cases is also moderated (or able to be moderated). It’s more like being on a playground with teachers keeping an eye out on the kids and no ‘evil’ persons trying to do something…..

          • Tommy

            You don’t see the big picture here. We are probably at some time in the future spend most of our lives in VR since it will offer so much value that is not possible in the real world. Horizon is facebooks attempt to create this alternate world that we will spend a lot of time in. And if I can’t be with my friends in this world without always being political correct 24/7 then it will destroy the human part of me.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Sorry, but these days you can’t even be on the internet without being politically correct or you’ll be in a shitstorm from morons who don’t agree with you, it’s already destroying society as it is. There already isn’t freedom of speech because others will slay you for something they don’t find appropriate.. The more VR will enter our main lives for social gatherings, the more laws (at least in the EU) will prevent companies from intruding on private sessions. Time will tell..

          • Caven

            Except this playground doesn’t allow most children, everyone else is required to wear bodycams, the teachers can monitor those bodycams in realtime whenever they want, and you can be expelled for perfectly legal conversation that the “teachers” don’t like.

            When I was in school, children could get disciplined for wearing jackets that happened to have sports team logos on them. Even today, kids have managed to get in trouble for having the wrong color hair, so a heavily monitored playground isn’t the model I’d like to see emulated for social VR.

            And really, giving Facebook the ability to perform the sorts of mass surveillance we try to prevent governments from doing strikes me as a very dangerous precedent.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Well Social VR will reflect how ‘normal’ playgrounds are, and as you perfectly describe it yourself, we’re not allowed to be ‘normal’ or what we like to do at ‘normal’ playgrounds already.. Personally I already hate the social media as it is today, you have to perfectly politically correct or you’ll get butchered by the crowd..

  • Not that I agree with it, but people should realize, this is virtually identical to how most MMO’s are run, including the ability for an employee to monitor lobbies and review history without the users knowing. The difference is they are generally only monitoring/reviewing text chat and don’t have access to audio since that’s typically done through third party software per the user’s choice (e.g. discord). It gets way creepier when people are actually listening to you and can hear all the background noise in your home, but policy wise it’s very similar. This is why I have always told people not to send personal information via messages in games – it’s not safe.

    It would be less of an issue if VR headsets had the same ability we have on desktop to send text and voice chat through third party systems in the background so you could leave your mic off in game. Then you could have conversations with your trusted friends with less fear and more freedom without impacting other players. This is a basic feature of modern gaming that people have been begging for in VR for a while.

    “If you knew you were being watched every time you searched for something on Google, would it change what you searched for?”

    This is bad phrasing because in both cases they are not watching every time, but can watch or review at any time. And that already impacts how I and many users search. There is a reason I use incognito windows to search for more sensitive topics I don’t want in my account history.

    A different question you can ask is what might a bad actor at the company with access to these monitoring tools do with more detailed personal information, like health information (talking about medications, appointments) or passwords (telling a buddy your netflix login so they can catch up on a show over the weekend). Keep your conversations in these VR environments limited to things you would talk about in a restaurant where strangers at the next table could overhear.

    • kontis

      this is virtually identical to how most MMO’s are run

      And Quest is just a video game console…. for now.

      This is the boiling frog method: use a more sophisticated version of game mechanics for quasi-game-ecosystem, slowly turn it into a proper mainstream tool for everything (they are already transferring from Oculus branding to Facebook for this reason), but keep gamification of users as a method of control. Don’t change anything, they already accepted it and got used to it, simply extend the capabilities and swallow their real lives.

      After all, China’s credit points system is also something completely non-controversial for a video game. But we are living in a simulation, so that’s not a problem. We are all just NPCs for Mr. Zuck.

      Or maybe context matters?

      Facebook described VR as potentially the final platform that in future may take over almost anything, even something as simple as reading a book. Does that sound like an MMO to you?

      • kontis

        BTW, the boiling frog method already worked beautifully for the mobile market duopoly.

        If iOS/iPhone was invented 15 years earlier something as revolutionary and ubiquitous as a web browser would never be invented as it breaks Apple’s TOS in multiple ways.

        But iOS started as a little OS for a cell phone, not a giant, global general purpose platform, so no one cared how dystopian and restrictive its rules are. Now in 2020 a lot of people are starting to wake up, but it might be too late.

      • “Or maybe context matters?”

        Yeah, context does matter, like the context of my post being about discussing the information/providing advice and not approving of the practice, which seems to have gone completely over your head for the sake of drama posting.

        “Facebook described VR as potentially the final platform”

        You immediately switch context yourself. Horizon is the context here, and just like every previous social environment from things like PS Home to MMOs, horizon’s not immune from the oversight and intrusive moderation of its creators. My point isn’t that this is a good thing, it’s that we shouldn’t pretend like it’s a new thing and should take these precautions with all similar systems.

    • IcedForce

      “There is a reason I use incognito windows to search for more sensitive topics I don’t want in my account history.”

      Just to say, that is the reason why this move to use Facebook account and moving everything under Facebook is so bad and now having even a recording on a social app for VR.

      You do know that if you use Google in normal mode to search stuff you usually do search and move to incognito mode to search more sensitive stuff, it doesn’t really matter to Google, they still know it is you searching that stuff (if you don’t take extra steps like using VPN, completely different browser, different PC and so on so it’s not just opening new incognito window and typing away)? They don’t put it under your account or into your accounts direct history but they put it under the IP-addresses history and it doesn’t take sophisticated AI to count 1+1=2 (at least if you’re not using public WiFi or something else where you share IP-address but that also doesn’t change much because Google also collects other data; browser, OS, window size and anything that is available through simple PHP/HTML query).
      Facebook goes even more nastier ways. You don’t even need to use anything which is directly under Facebook to be followed everywhere and being logged into a file (whether or not you have Facebook account and active cookies bound to it). All they need is sites having the good old “Like”-button and they have probably ramped that game up since it became quite public knowledge Facebook was spying everyone through them (they had “call home”-function where they collected info from the browser and the machine when they loaded the webpage and send that to Facebook without needing any interaction).

      What comes to the voice chat, at least with PCVR from other companies than Facebook (I haven’t even opened my Rift+Touch box ever, I’m not even sure where I put it and at this point I don’t even want to know), you just set your HMD mic as the mic for Discord or whatever program you want to use and set the output to HMD and vóla, you have the same voice chat as with screen games.
      With mobile HMDs… Well you are already quite deep in the Facebook swamp so does it even matter what voice chat program you use when it most likely needs to go through Facebook anyway and/or Facebook has HW level accessibility to your HMD? (I don’t say they do that, but I wouldn’t be surprised, after all their money comes from selling everyones data to whoever is willing to pay mere cents for it; They don’t directly sell your data but somewhere it is all logged and the problem is when that place is misused or compromised.)

      • You do know that if you use Google in normal mode to search stuff you usually do search and move to incognito mode to search more sensitive stuff, it doesn’t really matter to Google, they still know it is you searching that stuff (if you don’t take extra steps like using VPN, completely different browser, different PC and so on so it’s not just opening new incognito window and typing away)? They don’t put it under your account or into your accounts direct history but they put it under the IP-addresses history and it doesn’t take sophisticated AI to count 1+1=2….

        I have worked in IT for over 20 years, so I am very aware of this yes. :) I’m not searching for anything illicit or hyper-sensitive – it’s not like I care if google knows my household/business (because shared IP, as you point out IP tracking isn’t to the person if you have multiple people on the same public IP) is searching for it. I just don’t want google tying it to my account for the sake of Youtube recommendations and advertising that I really don’t want.

        That’s the extent of where my comment came from – the point was that google’s monitoring behavior already affects how I search, that’s all.

        Your points about Facebook and HMDs are all valid. I glossed over use of discord on PC like you describe because most people aren’t savvy to that or even using PC attached HMDs at this point (Quest is far more popular than Rift), but yes, you can do that. At some point you have to decide your own paranoia level, especially with headsets like the quest. My rule personal of thumb is to just be mindful about what kind of conversations are being had in that environment (or any time the HMD is powered on honestly).

        • IcedForce

          For sure it will become at some point to the choice who’s poison are you willing to drink.

          Currently I can see Facebook is going to try the borders. I would give it few years and we will see inside-out tracking becoming in-house scanning looking for noticeable products and whatever to get more data for ads. Most likely, even while they are part of the OpenXR, they will try the walled garden / exclusive platform option (where actually only one company has been really successful and that is mostly because their main business isn’t selling data and getting caught doing nasty things). And I say in decade they have already tried it all or at least published trying it, after all we are talking about Facebook here, they don’t really have a reputation to loose so might just throw it under the train and go for it.

          Personally I don’t care who tracks me and how much as long as I can keep my business and personal life separated (that’s why I have whole different PCs to do business things and I would be running VPN anyway just because a lot of reasons). But mobile VR gets hard pass from me, not only that it might turn out to be just another crazy mobile device rally where you need to buy a new thing every year and there isn’t even a chance to hack the old thing work as far as it can as the new thing, but the whole inside-out tracking is flawed IMO (dead-zones, possibility for things going really fast questionable and really, people find it hard do few measurements, drill few holes and screw few screws for lighthouses and either google or just ask somewhere is it possible to use different chaperone/playspace settings without running the setup always?; yes you can, it’s called OpenVR Advanced Settings and it does a lot more too) and the whole concept would need to become a lot more open and at least companies that can hold their simplest promises to compete on it (Facebook is Facebook, I wouldn’t trust them even to try to keep my worst enemy alive in vegetative state, HTC well let’s just say I have HTC U11 as my phone and if you think Samsung has bad reputation with updates, you clearly haven’t had HTC, Valve is far too deep in PCVR for so long it would be miracle if they came with mobile HMD).

          [Also I don’t know why my reply was marked as spam. I didn’t do any edits on it and it is completely the same in my profile. Probably someone just got angry (I count that as a victory, welcome to the internet, whoever that was) :D]

    • Ad

      If 98% of facebook’s revenue wasn’t from data extraction we would care a bit less. And if they weren’t cracking down on people they don’t like while allowing armed fringes to organize on their platform.

    • Enverex

      But MMOs are games, first and foremost. They aren’t designed to be replacements for physical interactions. Social games (though I lothe to call them games as they aren’t really) exist to let people communicate with others. WoW isn’t designed to let people have long-distance relationships, etc. People need to look to other social VR games, because ones that aren’t watching your every move exist and are already available right now.

  • Brian Honaker

    Nobody says you have to use the service. If you do, you accept this. It’s a private platform.

    • kontis

      When these few megacoprporations that control the global digital world make something it will sooner or latter knock to your life’s door.

      Read some articles how people experimented with removing Google from their lives completely with no google search, youtube, gmail android etc. It’s extremely difficult. When everyone around you starts using a service you may be indirectly forced to use it too to not be left out of social life or even a way to make a living.

      • Brian Honaker

        It is still a choice. If you’re coming into my house for a party and I have a no shoes rule, if you want to come in you will take off your shoes. It doesn’t matter how many of your friends are inside or how important the conversation is.

        • Sure, but in this case Mark’s house is potentially gigantic and getting to other places could become a big hassle. And he also keeps some really weird house rules.
          If enough of your friends and family are ambivalent and just want to use Horizon cause it’s easy and works, what choice will you really have?

          • Ad

            No, we have houses, Mark owns “outside.”

        • Ad

          But your house isn’t the question. It’s more like if Amazon bought all the libraries and then started dictating what public conversations can happen.

        • Jistuce

          If I’m coming to your house for a party and you have an “everyone wears a wiretap and if I don’t like what I hear on the microphones then you can never speak to your friends again” policy, then your party is actually Soviet Russia.

      • It’s difficult to get away from Google et al… without loosing so much ‘useful’ function. In January this year I gave it a go..

        Ditched Google search for Duckduckgo, Chrome for Firefox, Gmail for Protonmail, using nordvpn, always private browsing mode. Never used Facebook, closed my Instagram account. Closed 2 Gmail account.

        even tried lineageOS to replace my pixel’s vanilla android, but lost so much useful function (especially on Pixel) I reinstalled android, which require a Gmail account.

        It’s difficult and way beyond the average user. Data tracking is so prevalent now, especially these lovely people:- https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/24d36229c13088c14f378928458f4d0fdfffe74cac0a55c9e59dbcd1a59ea616.jpg

    • Ad

      They’re monopolizing VR and killing off competition to their services? Also they very much try and position themselves as part of the community.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        How are they monopolizing VR and how are they actually killing off competition?

        • TechPassion

          Oculus Store crap, finishing off Oculus brand, spying on people. You work there, you FB advocate?!

        • neil beee

          Your a facebook employee… so go get fucked Andrew. Boom! Boom,Boom! asshole.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            thanx, but I’m not a facebook employee, I just don’t give a damn.. Hell, if they would pay me a lot more then I earn now I’ll join Facebook in a second…

    • Kevin White

      Ahhhh, the good ole “private platform” argument.

      I’m somewhat libertarian in some respects, but come on. These tech mega-giants are angling to basically *become* the place where the majority of life interactions take place in the future, and to usurp the power and influence of governments by an order of magnitude. Centralized power to that crazed extent is a problem whether it’s private (but basically monopolized) or public.

  • xyzs

    Lol Dash Headsets now…..

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Invisible agents that might or might not be listening sounds a bit panopticon-ish

  • MeowMix

    Didn’t Oculus Venues already operate this way ?

  • GunnyNinja
  • Jan Ciger

    How is this different from what pretty much every single other multiplayer system does today?

    This persistent surveillance where you never know that you don’t have an admin (or, worse, “community moderator” – aka someone who was delegated the “God” powers) watching over your shoulder. Or some kiddo who can’t deal with losing a game falsely reporting you for cheating or some kind of abuse?

    Yes, Facebook, I get it. Surveillance is a problem and it does have dystopian vibes.

    However, singling Facebook out here, when everyone else does this, for a decade or more is a bit disingenuous. That this is VR doesn’t make it any different. Heck, even Rec Room allows to record people, report them for abuse and does have moderators too. And everyone considered that as actually a good thing (there are way too many creeps out there …).

    Sadly, given the nature of the medium and the way people behave (including sexual harassment of kids!) in these applications, I don’t see what could FB do differently. If they don’t include strong moderation features (including watching the behavior in person – otherwise it is “he said – she said”), they will get hammered for not doing enough against trolls, griefers and creeps. And if they do, then they get hammered for being spying creeps. Can’t win either way …

    • Ad

      Look at what facebook already allows and what decisions they make? Antifa banned but right wing militias allowed to organized armed marches on their platform. Their ad service takes hundreds of millions from QAnon ads and political campaigns with no moderation.

      And again, this is a metaverse, call of duty is not.

    • TechPassion

      you work there?

    • benz145

      How is this different from what pretty much every single other multiplayer system does today?

      What game brings invisible observers into my session to listen to me talk to people?

      Even if other games did this, Facebook has the scale (and the explicit goal) to turn Horizon and its progeny into a social service for a billion people. If you wouldn’t accept this sort of surveillance in a real public space, why should you accept it just because it’s happening digitally?

      This has literally already happened with Facebook.com. Once upon a time you could dismiss privacy concerns by saying “well it’s just a website,” but these days it’s an essential communication tool for billions of people; there are businesses which could not exist if they didn’t rely on Facebook. And Facebook—not the community—is the one that controls what can and cannot be said on that platform.

      Facebook also wants to own to do the same thing with real public spaces by owning the augmented layer on top of the real world: https://www.roadtovr.com/facebook-ar-headset-livemaps/

      We should all be concerned about the precedent being set.

    • Ona Mynuos

      Multiplayer games are about the game. There’s practically no deep or sensitive social interaction inside MMO games. Game surveillance monitors what you do in the game, they aren’t making a real life profile of you.
      If there’s anything IRL social between close friends in a game, it goes through a third party
      communication service like Discord (which by the way, isn’t private
      either, though it’s not Facebook). Facebook Horizon is a social online space for socializing.

  • Ad

    Thank you for taking this seriously.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Well, at least in this case they don’t get to see real images of mutilation or stuff like that, only what’s possible with horizon (which isn’t anything gory at all).

  • sebrk

    Haha fuck off Facebook.

  • BiovizierMantrid

    I will never buy from the Oculus store again. I hope someone comes up with a work around to eliminate the need for their software for those of us who bought a headset before the forced FB intrusion. No doubt some intrepid coder is all over this.

  • TechPassion

    Soon, they will be listening to your thoughts too once VR-brain connection becomes reality.

    • Kevin White

      Decades away, probably… but within that timeframe, YES, that is almost inevitable. Sounds ooky and untenably creepy to people like my wife, born in 1973 and not well-versed in futuristic dystopian sci-fi as I am, but 14 year olds of the year 2053 will feel this is fairly “normal.”

    • james beaumont

      And just imagine how bored the poor old souls with that job will be.

    • Ona Mynuos

      Hand, head, and eventually, eye-tracking, all together is pretty close to doing that already.

  • Steve Evans

    So this is a walled and curated garden. Some will want that. Sounds like a business opportunity to me for someone to create the next VR platform that has no walls, no controls, and is fully open. There will be people who will want that as well, directly or via advertisements. Perhaps it exists already. (Oasis for real?)

    I always get concerned when someone curtails freedom of speech because whomever gets to decide that, controls the narrative and history has proven it’s very difficult to get out any other narrative. So, although you have to put up with the crazies and hateful, the alternative is you lose your ability to express your own beliefs too.

    Thinking about it, a compromise might be to have regions within the metaverse where different groups are responsible for judging acceptable behavior. Just thinking as I write…Individuals could agree to be part of a specific region’s “reviewers” and if someone reports something, all of the reviewers in that area would get a chance to review the incident (perhaps anonymized to some extent-names/avatar/voice distorted) and vote on a result (nothing, warn, temp ban, recommend to admin a permanent ban from that area). This would allow an area with kids to be much stricter than an area with more adult focused activities, etc.

  • MatBrady

    Facebook just made VR evil.
    I blame Oculus owners, you brought this on yourselves. When you didn’t speak up against Oculus-exclusive titles and didn’t speak up for an open vr platform, especially at a time where the industry was just starting out, this type of monopolistic thinking where you sell out your principles is what led Oculus selling out to Facebook.
    And now Facebook has made VR evil.
    Doesn’t Valve look like saints now, eh? They’ve always supported open vr. Even Alyx isn’t exclusive. Open VR comes with it principles and reasons for those principles. Oculus owners are, like, oh, I get it now.
    R.I.P. Oculus.

    • MeowMix

      No need to blame users just trying to have fun.

      • Ad

        True, but we all talked about what a utopian thing VR would be, we talked about this like it was important, but we didn’t act that way.

        • ViRGiN

          And then people play beat saber for 2 years like it’s the cutting edge vr.

          • Jistuce

            It doesn’t have to be cutting-edge to be fun. Some of my favorite games are a couple of DECADES old. Just because someone’s favorite game is more than six months old doesn’t mean they shouldn’t play it anymore.

    • TechPassion

      I am laughing now from all these fools who attacked me over my recommendation of VR headset. I suggested to buy Samsung Odyssey+ for 220$ on Amazon, directly from Samsung and not buy worse specs Rift S. Now, eat your Rift S and be spied by Zuck. ha ha!

    • Jistuce

      “I blame Oculus owners, you brought this on yourselves. When you didn’t
      speak up against Oculus-exclusive titles and didn’t speak up for an open
      vr platform”

      I note that I own a Rift, and all my VR games have been bought from Steam, not Oculus. Precisely because I didn’t want to be locked into buying VR gear from one company or losing all my games.

      More and more lately, it seems very clear that was the right decision.

  • Ryan Schultz

    Ben, thank you for writing this opinion piece. It encapsulates many of my misgivings about Facebook Horizon. I have decided to delete my Facebook account, and I will boycott Facebook products and services from now on. I have already placed an order for a Valve Index to replace my Oculus Rift.

    • PK

      i believe this is the same thing vrchat can and probably does do, although the difference being i trust that team, they’re vr enthusiasts with honourable intentions, or that’s the impression i have. while facebook is actively supporting autocrats. but without regulation i imagine this is done to some degree on every platform. except for big screen.

  • flamaest

    Wow, this is some serious 1984 garbage.

    • Azreal42

      You know all mmorpg use the same mecanics for moderation, right ? And Facebook is not a State, you can freely defect (by not using Horizon). So nop, this is not 1984 garbage

  • Trip

    I am very anti-facebook but I’m going to sorta disagree here. Keep in mind I have very limited exposure, for exactly the reason I think Horizon being strictly monitored and controlled is something I support.

    This is coming from my perspective as someone who checked out SecondLife many years ago and was left in shock. Everything I’ve seen on youtube for VRChat indicates that it is not surprisingly very similar, with trolling and ERP extremely prevalent. RecRooms looks safer but seems like people still have open season to troll and behave badly via audio and movements. Also it appears to me that the way they keep it from going totally bonkers is by restricting what you can create, in terms of avatars especially.

    I would very much like to have a “game” like this available that is policed in this way as it’s the only way I can imagine to avoid this becoming like VRChat and to a lesser extent RecRoom. Give us maximum tools to build and customize avatars and worlds, but a way to keep it fairly inoffensive. I don’t advocate for policing EVERYWHERE for offensive behavior, but I do support the idea of having such a “place” available for those who want it.

    So long as there are other competing products like VRChat available for the people who want to be free of big brother, there is nothing wrong with having at least one “safe” option available where people can’t get away with bad behavior, at the expense of privacy.

    Even better IMO Facebook could have an option to have worlds where everyone who joins agrees to be in an un-monitored place and that they are “unprotected” with Facebook’s ability to spy guaranteed to have been disabled. This way if you want to be free to behave however you wish you can go say and do whatever you like with others who are like-minded.

    On the other hand, I really don’t want Facebook to totally dominate the market for these online social worlds (or anything else!) so their vision for Horizon being a policed environment will actually help less well-funded projects to compete in their own space rather than get trampled by Facebook.

    This is just my opinion, as someone who would like to maybe create and hang out in these virtual worlds but not be subjected to unwanted sexual content, ERP, intentionally offensive avatars names, conversation, and trolling in general.

    PS- Another thing to consider is the fact that no matter where you are on the internet everything you say and do could very well be recorded by the other players present and posted on youtube or anywhere else to embarrass you, or sent to the company who makes and controls the software to report you. Shadowplay, OBS, etc. etc. mean that there is no such thing as true privacy online. With the tiny “spy” cameras available, there’s no guarantee of privacy in the real world anymore either. I shudder ot think of the places those tiny cameras likely wind up. “Hollow Man” comes to mind.

    • IcedForce

      The big questions sadly are: What is safe? And who gets to decide that? And to what level we are comfortable to let the monitoring go for that safety with a certain corporation?

      Now before you answer remember Facebook is politically oriented company and it hasn’t even been very secretive about that they are willing to moderate things so the discussion is better for them. They aren’t also objective or neutral company, they are always ready to take the side where they see they will get more money and hopefully better PR. Also their business still lies mainly in selling user acquired data, not selling a platform but selling the data gained from people using that platform and we can quite surely say their main goal with building VR social app is to get more of that data.

      What comes to competition we can probably say that if Facebook is successful with their VR products sooner or later they will try the walled garden approach with their platform (especially with their mobile platform). They already kind of are doing that because PCVR Oculus Store is only available for Facebook HMDs even when all the other VR stores are open for everyone and there really isn’t any other reason than “our store” because all it takes is one program to make everything in that store work with most of the HMDs. So it’s very possible they won’t allow competition against their own products on their platform which will mean we probably won’t see VRchat, Rec Room, Hypatia and others on “Facebook” Store once Horizon is successful (one other reason is that Facebook will want as many user to use Horizon as possible because data and competition is a big risk in that).

      On monitoring side again the big difference why this is bad for Horizon is that it is Facebook. Almost everyone who can record me or anyone within a game can’t do that in masses, they cannot record everyone and everything, they don’t even want to do that because it gets expensive and fast and you would need resources and contacts to do something with all of that data, most of the game developers and even publishers don’t want to know more than your email where to send ads after they get your money little less record you playing their game. Facebooks bread and butter lies in collecting and selling data, they want all of the data, they would want to record everyones sessions in Horizon from beginning to end so they can sell it and they have the resources to record everything and they have the contacts to sell everything.

      When it comes to “spy cameras” and recording especially one person playing a game it goes to the area of targeted attack and 99% of the people just aren’t worth it for anyone by random to do that. Just like most of the vulnerabilities in PCs require physical access or a lot of work and at that point they are not done by random and they are used against certain targets that are known to yield good prices, by random you make a virus that spreads itself and works autonomously and just dumps data on your server or just does what it does without bothering you and hopefully some affected move money to your bitcoin walled.

    • Ad

      Facebook being the ones in charge of this and having it top down is a core part of the problem. I really hope this isn’t second life though, what a disaster that would be in VR.

  • MW

    Ahh, the dilemma from Bible paradise: who has the right to set rightwrong standards. The biggest dilemma of humanity.
    This dilemma is unsolvable by humans – did one human have right to say to another: this is good/bad? LGBT, BLM, KKK, religion, etc. What to do if one person are disagreeing with another? Ignore? Force? Diplomacy? Nothing works. Just because no human has the right to set those standards for another, or even himself (that’s why we have jails:)).
    That’s why we need Good.
    But Facebook is no God:)

  • ale bro

    if someone is annoying you in the game, just block them. no need to get a 3rd party moderator involved.

    Pokerstars VR has already solved this problem.

    • Azreal42

      And yet twitter has blocking ability and moderators.

  • Ad

    Ben, you should read a bit about criticism of Disneyland, which is quite similar in that way of a space that dictates people and the whole aesthetic. It’s been called fascist and when you see the Disney owned housing communities that have the same rules as the park, it’s not hard to see. People don’t fit into that very narrow dreamlike framework, even if they build “Anytown, USA” in the middle of the park. It was a major concern when Disney wanted to build a park in Maryland based on American history.

    Also an interesting question could have been “would a protest be allowed in Horizon?” Except not really since there’s a limit of 8 and Facebook would probably love to let people protest in VR like it’s a Pepsi commercial.

  • Razumen

    I doubt this is going to go anywhere, the screenshots screen blandness and design by committee. Still, this is super creepy.

  • Grey Lock

    This is par for the course for online services.

    Take XBOX Live – At any time you could be playing with a moderator, as they jump into games where complaints are happening.

    As long as we have strong privacy rights laws, any company that break them will be in a world of hurt (aka YouTube’s recent $170 million dollar fine.)

    And if you’re still worried, you can just choose not to play Horizons.

    As for me, I’d hate to see Horizons’ social spaces become a burning hulk filled with hate speech due to the lack of enforcing any rules.

    • brandon9271

      There’s no such thing as “Hate speech”

  • brubble

    and the world just keeps spiraling downward.

  • Jim P

    Communist at its finest. It’s starts with steps. The people with GOD complexes need to go.

    • Azreal42

      Communism seriously ? Please open a book and stop your computer.

      • Jim P

        I have read a books hence why I am saying. Speech police. One of the steps so civilians don’t have rights. Karl Marx manifesto. < hello.

        • Azreal42

          No communism use monopoly on violence to coerce people. To do so, it require speech police (among other nasty stuff).
          But when you live in communism state, eye are on you 24/24 and you go to jail or worse when saying stuff against the state.
          On the contrary, you’re free no to use horizon, and use some other software that don’t spy if you prefer.
          You will not risk your physical integrity if you’re going against the rules, at most a ban.
          Seriously comparing the horror of communism with horizon is way out of proportion. Communism is a state organization.

        • brandon9271

          FB is most definitely run by a bunch of far-left scumbags.

  • Jim P

    Just wait until the GOD complex gets the nuralink working it will start out a good thing helping people with brain problems but people with GOD complex see a bigger prize and it’s not good for humans

  • JBSTheGamer

    Hey at least facebook horizon will not be toxic as hell like VRChat is especially handling things like this. But still people will have privacy concerns.

    • TechPassion

      Idiots from Facebook will make it 100% toxic.

    • fff0orall

      duuude go to neosVR its way better

      • JBSTheGamer

        I already been playing NeosVR for a while now.

  • Jorgie

    I love how you don’t even bother to mention that the Xbox and PS4 use exactly they method of circular-buffer recording. Or the fact that MMO has the same ability to moderators to silently see what you and listen to you if you have chat enabled.

    Nice click-bait BS.

    • TechPassion

      Shut up.

    • asdf

      yeah but none of them have been sued for millions-billions for violating the privacy of data they obtained via those systems…..

      how fucking stupid can you be?

    • brandon9271

      Someone really has a crush on Zuckerberg

  • Sebastian Ang

    You perfectly nailed it with this article. Great journalism, thanks Ben!

  • Craig Chadwick

    I still don’t have FACEBOOK. And never will. Shame on YOU…shallow, brainless, fickle, and insecure users. You need this, and more.

    • Azreal42

      Yes we need this and more, are we done now ?

    • brandon9271

      It’s amazing how FB has people literally begging to be datamined and mentally enslaved.

  • Azreal42

    Ok then, so i guess we’re not done now with this kind of silly comment. ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
    You know you’re not entitled to use Fb Horizon right ? You’re money you’re choice.

  • geogan

    This is real Big Brother from 1984 stuff alright. The thought police are watching. But only if you upset some bubble-wrapped millennial, who can instantly rat you out to the corporation for any slight to their fragile PC self. Bit like Jews being reported to Nazis or like the “visitor friends” from old TV series “V”

  • FloridaOJ

    There’s a really easy solution for this.

    Everyone that has a problem with the company that owns the theme park, dictating what happens in the theme park… Should build their own theme park.

    Facebook owes you nothing. Horizon was not promised upon purchase of your headset. If you’re not a troll, deviant or other form of disrespectful miscreant… you shouldn’t have any concerns.

    This isn’t your virtual personal home/world, it is Facebook Horizon. FACEBOOK HORIZON. Are all of you capable of basic reading comprehension? It’s obvious that nearly none of your work for an engineering firm or other form of development institution. Zero hints of an understanding of risk mitigation or quality control.

    Take your asses to VR Chat and enjoy.

  • i hate fb

    Facebook can go suck on a fat one

  • Mattphoto

    All these people bitching about privacy on a Disqus widget. Disqus. They’ve been hacked and had data stolen numerous times. People are so dumb it hurts.