Privacy issues: Facebook stops selling Oculus VR glasses in Germany

Privacy issues: Facebook stops selling Oculus VR glasses in Germany

Published on 03.09.2020

Facebook stops selling its VR glasses in Germany

Facebook is now stopping the sale of VR glasses from the Oculus brand in Germany. The Group refers to discussions with German supervisory authorities. “We have temporarily suspended the sale of Oculus hardware to consumers in Germany due to pending discussions with the regulatory authority,” the company said in a statement. “We hope to be able to resume sales in the future.“

Facebook also did not provide details on the reasons for the sales stop when asked. According to information from WELT, the latest announcement is behind this that the VR headsets will only be usable for existing users with a Facebook account from 2023. New customers must register with a Facebook account as early as October.

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The supervisory authorities in Germany are extremely critical of the merging of such data. For example, the Bundeskartellamt has already prohibited the Group from merging user data from various services such as WhatsApp and Instagram. A prohibition order was last formally confirmed by the Federal Supreme Court in June. The accusation: Facebook is exploiting its dominant position.

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However, the authorities have not ordered a stop to the sale of VR glasses in Germany. “We have taken proactive measures to interrupt sales in Germany,” Facebook said.

The Hamburg Data Protection Officer Johannes Caspar describes the forced coupling of the use of glasses with a Facebook account as “extremely problematic” to WELT and refers to the General Data Protection Regulation. “Facebook apparently still seems to hold the opinion that the data of the users within the individual companies of the group can be easily exchanged with each other.“

Ireland must decide

The Germany headquarters of the social network is located in Hamburg. The Hamburg Data Protection Commissioner now wants to forward the matter to the competent European supervisory authority for Facebook and Oculus, the Irish Data Protection Commission, for further consideration, which must then submit a draft decision. The European General Data Protection Regulation provides for this procedure, since the European headquarters is located in Ireland.

However, Caspar does not expect a quick solution. “Since no such decision proposal has been submitted in the last two years on the issue of data transfer between WhatsApp and Facebook, I have little confidence that a speedy solution will be found here.“

Facebook points out that owners of Oculus VR glasses could continue to use the device as before. Nor was the company’s business customer program affected by the sales freeze.

In Germany, the Oculus Go, Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift models were recently sold. The Oculus devices are the most sold VR glasses in Germany. Facebook bought the company Oculus VR in 2014 for two billion dollars.

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Facebook announced in August that it would integrate Oculus more deeply into the Facebook network. From October, new users will only be able to log in with a Facebook account on their Oculus glasses. Previous users can still use their glasses without such an account until the end of 2022. Then you also need to log in your Facebook account there.

Devices purchased in the past 30 days can be returned, according to Facebook. With the sales stop, Facebook will no longer supply VR glasses to retailers in Germany. However, the group points out that traders are still selling their remaining stocks.

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