What you need to know
- Meta is disbanding its internal Responsible Innovation team and moving some employees to other groups within the organization.
- The Responsible Innovation team was formed years ago and was dedicated to helping teams at Meta create ethically responsible products.
- Meta says "most of its former members would continue similar work elsewhere at Meta" in "more issue-specific teams."
Meta is dissolving its Responsible Innovation team in another round of layoffs and fat-trimming at the company. The Responsible Innovation team was founded to help different teams at Meta — at the time, Facebook — to figure out how products in development could end up potentially breaching etiquette or violating ethics. At the time, Margaret Stewart, the head of the team, said this was important for Meta since it was a steward "of some of the most powerful communication tools ever created."
As MarketWatch reports, the team is now being disbanded in favor of "more issue-specific teams" instead of one monolithic branch that handles requests from all of Meta's umbrella groups. A meta spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that "most of its former members would continue similar work elsewhere at Meta" but didn't guarantee positions for anyone specific.
The announcement comes about one month before the expected announcement of the Oculus Quest Pro — also known as Project Cambria — which is set to debut at a higher price than the existing Quest 2 headset and is more geared toward enthusiasts and enterprise purposes. While a great Quest 2 deal will get you a headset for under $400, the Quest Pro could be as much as $1,500 according to some leaks.
The Quest Pro is also expected to debut a number of additional cameras on the headset and the controllers themselves, enabling face tracking, eye tracking, and body tracking for virtual applications. It's these exact types of scenarios that Meta created the Responsible Innovation team for since privacy issues could run rampant with so many cameras and data collection points - something Meta itself points out as a core component of its responsible innovation policy.
While the news sounds particularly alarming given Meta's history with privacy violations, Meta says the company's responsible innovation policy isn't being changed despite the change in how the organization deals with the implementation.
Many of the company's upcoming products will likely have questions revolving around the question of privacy — just as when Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses launched last year — and the continued development and implementation of the Metaverse in multiple products will also require some tricky footwork to address topics regarding ethics and privacy.
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