In May, Facebook announced that it would begin testing advertisements in virtual reality. Those tests are now about to go live. “The company revealed it’s going to begin experimenting with the ads in the Oculus Quest title Blaston from Resolution Games. The experiment will also expand to two other unnamed developers in the coming weeks,” said Michael Tan for PCMag.
In-headset ads. The advertisements, deemed “in-headset ads” by Facebook, are part of the company’s exploration of ways for developers to generate revenue: “This is a key part of ensuring we’re creating a self-sustaining platform that can support a variety of business models that unlock new types of content and audiences,” the company said in the announcement blog.
Privacy. Facebook, which develops the Oculus VR headsets, plans to monitor user interaction with the VR ads, but did say that all Oculus ads will still have to follow Facebook’s advertising rules. As such, users will still be able to use “controls to hide specific ads or hide ads from an advertiser completely.”
In the announcement blog, Facebook outlined the privacy policies for Oculus ads:
- We do not use information processed and stored locally on your headset to target ads. Processing and storing information on the device means it doesn’t leave your headset or reach Facebook servers, so it can’t be used for advertising.
- We take extra precautions around the use of movement data like minimizing what we need to deliver a safe and immersive VR experience and we have no plans to use movement data to target ads.
- We do not use the content of your conversations with people on apps like Messenger, Parties, and chats or your voice interactions to target ads.
“Still, because the company is trying to require Oculus VR owners to sign in with a Facebook account, the social network can still analyze your personal data to serve up targeted ads,” points out Tan.
Why we care. Privacy is a big issue for users right now and advertisements in virtual reality might be a step too far for many. Facebook has been caught in the middle of this privacy debate, especially as iOS 14 has cracked down on app tracking. However, the opportunity may be perfect for many advertisers to reach a new or specific type of audience if the tests go well. There’s a precipice where ads in VR almost feel like we’re headed toward Ready Player One territory, so it’s a trend worth watching.
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