Oculus Controllers Tell Users 'Big Brother Is Watching You'

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked in June 2016 if he is a lizard. He swore that he isn't, but rumors that Zuckerberg is a robot or a member of the Illuminati have persisted nonetheless. This probably won't help matters: Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell said today that the company shipped "tens of thousands of Touch controllers" with messages like "The Masons Were Here" and "Big Brother Is Watching You" inscribed on the inside.

"Unfortunately, some 'easter egg' labels meant for prototypes accidentally made it onto the internal hardware for tens of thousands of Touch controllers," Mitchell said via Twitter.

Mitchell said the messages were easter eggs that were supposed to be removed before the Oculus Touch controllers were released. That explains some of the other messages, too, including "Hi iFixIt! We See You!" and "This Space For Rent." The messages about the Masons and renting space were included in units that shipped to consumers, Mitchell said, and the messages to iFixIt and about Big Brother were limited to dev kits.

Most people would never even notice these messages, because they're inscribed on the inside of the Touch controllers, not visible from the outside. Mitchell's tweets about the messages may have attracted more attention to them than they would've ever received on their own. But now that people know they might have a secret written in their Touch controller, we wouldn't be surprised if they decided to crack 'em open for a quick peek.

Oculus is far from the only company to incorporate easter eggs into its products. Fun secrets have been hidden in countless games, movies and other entertainment mediums for decades. They can also be found in hardware products, although that's a bit less common. (Or we're all just too afraid to pry apart our shiny electronics on the off chance there's a hidden message inside.) The Touch controller follows a long-standing tradition.

But it would be hard to argue that the messages aren't a little tone deaf. People have serious privacy concerns about Facebook--and they absolutely should--so finding "Big Brother Is Watching You" or "The Masons Were Here" inside one of the company's products would be unnerving. It's like making a joke at someone's funeral. Was it funny? Maybe. Was it the right time or place to be laughing? Many people would say that it wasn't.

Mitchell acknowledged that in his tweets about these early easter eggs: "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."

Whether that means Oculus employees can no longer hide messages or that the company will be better at catching them wasn't discussed.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.