The day many virtual reality enthusiasts feared is nearly upon us. Sooner or later, every Oculus headset is going to require a linked Facebook account in order for it to function.
Oculus messaged this policy change today, and it has a few different angles. For anyone who hasn't yet bought an Oculus VR headset, Facebook will mandate that new users sign up with a Facebook account starting in October 2020. That's the most immediately restrictive of the new terms and conditions.
Anyone who already has an Oculus account will be able to use that through the end of 2022. Facebook won't require that you merge your Oculus account with a Facebook account until January 1, 2023. At that point, Oculus says that your device won't be fully functional without merging, although it wasn't clarified as to how shortchanged those accounts will be. It's likely that some social features won't be available, but it could extend to use of the Oculus storefront and possible incompatibility with purchases that have already been made.
However, that timeline is sped up for upcoming headsets. Oculus says "All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account." There's a heavily-rumored updated version of the Oculus Quest that's expected to be announced this fall. (Oculus Connect always takes place in late September or early October, but there's no date yet for this digital-only event.) The new Quest will likely be the first headset that absolutely requires you to have a Facebook account connected to it.
Facebook doesn't even try hiding the fact that it's using this merging as a way of harvesting data. In the FAQ section of the announcement post, it's stated that "We will use information related to your use of Oculus and Facebook for purposes such as showing you personalized content, including ads, across Facebook products. This could include recommendations for Oculus Events you might like, ads about Facebook apps and technologies, or ads from developers for their VR apps." You virtual reality headset will need to be connected to a social media account so that you can be more effectively marketed to.
For anyone on existing hardware, the consolation here is that you have a bit of time before the change is forced upon you. It's also worth noting that you can sign up for an Oculus account without actually owning an Oculus VR headset. Anyone who might get a Rift or Quest in the near future -- and doesn't care for the forced Facebook tie-in -- might want to preemptively sign up now. It'll help you circumvent the inevitable for a few years.