U.K. Regulator Calls Out Mark Zuckerberg Over Parental Control On VR Headset

Published on

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the U.K. has asked Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ:FB) CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to clarify Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset’s parental controls. Campaigners in the country assert that the lack thereof could expose children to online abuse.

Get The Full Walter Schloss Series in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Walter Schloss in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

Q4 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

A Threat

As reported by The Guardian, the U.K.’s data watchdog is seeking clarification from Zuckerberg as the lack of parental controls on the famous headset could prevent parents from blocking content that could be harmful to children.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has identified “multiple instances of abuse” on VRChat, a flagship social app on Oculus.

“Examples of under-18s being harassed on VRChat included a young person’s avatar —the digital representation used by people on virtual reality platforms— being followed by two heavily breathing men and another male joking in front of an under-18 that they were a ‘convicted sex offender,’” the media outlet reports.

On these grounds, the ICO said it would contact Meta about the issue and investigate how compliant with the age-appropriate design code Oculus is. The code establishes that those under 18 must be given priority.

Breaching The Code

An ICO spokesperson told The Guardian, “Online services and products that use personal data and are likely to be accessed by children are required to comply with the standards of our children’s code.”

“We are planning further discussions with Meta on its children’s privacy and data protection by design approaches to Oculus products and virtual reality services. Parents and children who have concerns about how their data is being handled can complain to us at the ICO.”

Despite the age-appropriate design code seeking to prevent websites, applications, and connected devices from exploiting children’s data, it does not watch content.

Meta could face a 2.5 million pound fine, as “Kids using VR headsets like Oculus can access chatrooms and other features known to carry risk, by simply ticking a box declaring they meet the minimum age requirements,” crossbench peer Beeban Kidron said.

“This is an insufficient barrier to underage use of services known to harbor child abuse, harassment, racism, and pornography,” he added.

Meta is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders' families.