British privacy watchdog: Meta may violate child code with Oculus Quest 2

The British privacy watchdog wants to talk to Facebook’s parent company about the child safety of the Oculus Quest 2 headset. According to child safety experts, the headset has no parental supervision functions and thus violates the child safety code.

The Information Commissioner’s Office of ICO is taking this step after child safety experts alerted the regulator to the issue, The Guardian writes. Because the Oculus Quest 2 glasses don’t have parental supervision functions, according to these experts, they can’t block content. This means, among other things, that children can go online without restrictions. The British privacy watchdog says it is in talks with Meta about the extent to which the device complies with children’s regulations.

According to this code, “the best interests of the child” should be primary considerations when developing devices that allow underage users to get online. This code contains non-binding regulations for perpetuating the protection of children’s privacy. Companies are not obliged to follow the formulated standards, but doing so can have negative consequences. ICO writes that if the code is not followed, it will be more difficult to demonstrate that the law has been complied with, if the authority decides that enforcement action must be taken.

According to the creator of that code, Beeban Kidron, Meta may be violating several conditions. For example, under Oculus’ terms of service, headset users may not be younger than 13 years of age, but according to Kidron, Meta does not check that sufficiently, as is prescribed by the child code: “Children can access chat rooms and other high-risk areas with VR headsets. functions by just checking a box in which they promise to be old enough. That barrier is not enough to prevent minors from using services known to harbor child abuse, harassment, racism and pornography.”

One of the organizations that investigated the child safety of the Oculus Quest 2 and associated applications says it found more than 100 possible violations of Meta’s terms of service in the application VRChat within 12 hours. According to the organization, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Meta is failing not only with the Oculus headset, but also with its metaverse plans to “integrate even the minimum amount of protection.”

The British child protection organization National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children also says to The Guardian that it has doubts about whether Meta complies with the safety code: “It is clear that Meta has not designed the Oculus headset in accordance with a safety-by-code. design approach.”

A spokesperson for Meta tells the British newspaper that the company is assured that it does act in accordance with the children’s code. “We are committed to complying with the Code’s terms and to provide young people with age-appropriate experiences.”