Facebook accidentally hid bizarre and “inappropriate” messages inside “tens of thousands” of virtual reality (VR) controllers, including “Big Brother is Watching” and “The Masons Were Here.”
Nate Mitchell, the cofounder of Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the company inadvertently printed some unusual messages inside its Touch controllers, handheld devices for playing games and navigating inside VR.
These messages were intended only for prototypes, he said — but a mistake meant they were included in regular production devices. Some messages were included in developer kits aimed at people building software for the product, while different messages made their way into consumer devices in significantly larger numbers.
There should have been no internal messages of any kind in any of the devices, but a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider the company will not be issuing a recall.
“Unfortunately, some ‘easter egg’ labels meant for prototypes accidentally made it onto the internal hardware for tens of thousands of Touch controllers,” the tech executive wrote.
“The messages on final production hardware say ‘This Space For Rent’ & ‘The Masons Were Here.’ A few dev kits shipped with ‘Big Brother is Watching’ and ‘Hi iFixit! We See You!’ but those were limited to non-consumer units.”
(iFixit is a tech repair company known for publicly deconstructing new gadgets and posting photos of their innards online.)
Mitchell added: “While I appreciate easter eggs, these were inappropriate and should have been removed. The integrity and functionality of the hardware were not compromised, and we’ve fixed our process so this won’t happen again.”
Facebook spokesperson Joanna Peace told Business Insider that while none of the affected consumer devices had been shipped yet, they will ultimately go out to consumers with the hidden messages inside.
“To be clear, no devices have been sold with these messages yet, since Quest and Rift S have not yet shipped. That said, as mentioned in Nate’s tweet, the messages will be inside tens of thousands of controller pairs that will ship to consumers when Quest and Rift S ship,” Peace wrote in an email.
“We think it’s important to be transparent with our community and take responsibility when there’s an error,” she says.
The messages are printed on the “flex,” Peace says, “an internal flexible component of the Touch controllers.”
While most users of the Touch controller will never see the hidden messages, it’s an awkward misstep for Facebook, which has faced sustained criticism on privacy issues for more than a decade.
It comes as Facebook attempts to push virtual reality into the mainstream, and the company is also gearing up to launch its long-awaited Oculus Quest, an all-in-one virtual reality headset, in the coming months.
Facebook is also quietly developing augmented reality (AR) technology, and Business Insider previously reported that the company restructued its AR glasses division late last year as it inches closer to launching a commercial product.
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