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Oculus reassures Senator Al Franken that its data collection practices are not at all creepy

The VR company knows how far apart your eyes are, but only to deliver images in sharp focus.

 Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey shows off Oculus Touch at a press event in June.
Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey shows off Oculus Touch at a press event in June.
Eric Johnson for Re/code

Facebook-owned Oculus VR admitted that, when users strap on one of its virtual reality headsets, they are agreeing to share some of their personal information in order to make the experience as real as possible.

That does not mean — according to a seven-page response to U.S. Sen. Al Franken's questions about its data collection practices — that it is doing anything wrong. Oculus collects a range of personal information about its users — from their general location to the distance between a person's eyes — but says it only does so to improve the virtual reality experience.

For example, Oculus knows where you are — not to be creepy, but to deliver content in the local language, prices in the local currency and provide notifications at a reasonable time of day.

In a game of virtual ping pong, Oculus says it needs to know the angle of a person's hand motion to determine if the ping pong ball reaches the person on the other side of the table. It measures the distance between a person's eyes to improve clarity and focus. It tracks physical movements (and physical dimensions) to deliver the experience.

Oculus says it shares data with third parties — in a way that's not personally identifiable — to further app development. And the company swears it uses the best possible security to safeguard its users' information.

"At Oculus, we believe that maintaining people's trust is critical to the long-term growth of not just our company, but the entire VR community," wrote general counsel Jordan McCollum. "It's why privacy and security are core to our product and company principles."

Franken said that's good enough for now but he will continue working with the company to oversee how it handles personal information in the future.

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