This week, the Federal Trade Commission, along with US states such as New York, Tennessee, and North Carolina, are building an anti-competitive case against global virtual reality (VR) firm Meta.
In a move launched by the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, lawmakers plan to investigate the Menlo Park-based firm on accusations from various immersive software developers.
The group claims that Meta is using its social media and VR software platforms to stop competing companies from releasing immersive applications along with software updates to block third-party developers from optimising VR applications on Quest devices.
A Year of Legal Trouble
According to reports, Cix Liv, former CEO and Founder of Yur, accused Meta of incorporating software updates that stopped his immersive fitness apps from working on Meta Quest hardware.
Liv has pursued anti-competitive claims since mid-2021, and in an interview last year, he claimed that “Facebook [Meta] doesn’t care about 3rd party [developers] at all.”
He continued, stating that he felt “traumatized” when Meta, formerly Facebook, later announced its competing VR fitness app Oculus Move.
During the 2021 interview, Liv explained further,
“Basically, they pretend they want to work with you, while stealing all your methods, even researching your team which they will try to subsequently poach from you […] The copying isn’t even the biggest deal, it’s the fact that they will actively assault you and block you, while also running a 3rd party app store”
Additionally, Darshan Shankar, CEO of Bigscreen VR, pursued similar claims after Meta released its own immersive movie streaming service that directly competed against the smaller studio.
The news comes after Meta faced a wave of similar anti-competitive cases over the last decade, namely after it purchased WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus, triggering several lawmakers to block the deals due to anti-competitive fears.
Despite rebranding in October last year, Meta faces many privacy and security concerns from the firm’s social media network as it continues its Metaverse journey.
According to recent reports, Meta failed to provide details on its user privacy and data collection procedures. Owen Vaughan, Director of Research for nChain, noted that the firm’s Metaverse ambitions open up “a lot more risk in terms of privacy and security.”
Additionally, Frances Haugen, a Former Facebook Data Engineer, leaked a series of documents claiming that Meta fails to protect users across its social media platforms.
In response to rising privacy concerns, Nick Clegg, Meta’s Global Comms Chief, announced that the company would safeguard users on his company’s platforms, partner with global supranational organisations to ethically build the Metaverse, as well as pledge $50 million to invest in the initiative.
Public concerns over Meta’s data privacy issues are also rising due to the firm’s in-game VR adverts. Despite this, Andrew Bosworth, Chief Technology Officer for Meta, responded, stating: “It’s our fault. I don’t think we [Meta] communicated very well. We’re here for developers.”