The new Xbox will be spying more than ever thanks to Microsoft

Camera and Microphone for Xbox One: Always-on and works-in-the-dark

xbox-one-kinect-hal-640x353By Sebastian Anthony

The Xbox One will feature, by default, an always-on, works-in-the-dark, microphone and camera that’s constantly connected to the internet and 300,000 servers. And inside the kinect box you will find 4 microphones, 2 cameras, an infrared motion sensor, and a license to freely record and upload your activity…. What could possibly go wrong?

Following on from the massive success of Kinect on the Xbox 360, Microsoft made the bold choice of bundling every Xbox One with Kinect 2.0. The second-generation Kinect might look like a separate peripheral, but the Xbox One will actually refuse to work if Kinect isn’t plugged in. (Because it needs to spy)

And then there’s the privacy aspect. With the Xbox One, Kinect is constantly on, so that you can navigate around the console with voice and gesture commands. This means that that you’re constantly being watched by an IR camera that can see in the dark, and a microphone that’s constantly listening for your audio cues. Even more terrifyingly, you can turn on the Xbox One with a voice command — yes, even when the Xbox One is off, Kinect is still listening. What if a developer goes rogue and develops malware that snoops on you? What if someone develops Xbox One malware that records what goes on in your child’s bedroom, even when the console appears to be turned off?

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Xbox 360’s Spying Policies With Microsoft

Nestled inside Microsoft’s contract with you is a list of things you’re not permitted to do while using the service, nothing out of the norm so let’s take a look. Things you are not permitted to do:

“use or distribute unauthorized cheats, macros, or scripts; or

exploit a bug, or make an unauthorized modification, to any software or data to gain unfair advantage in a game, contest, or promotion.”

In the next section it specifies that you also agree not to:

“Create a Gamertag, avatar or use text in other profile fields that may offend other members. This includes comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate or relate to any of the following: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities”

Since people could always report your gamertag before, this also really isn’t that new since Microsoft has always tried to put a stop to nasty gamertags, just keep this in mind when you’re setting up that new account since it’s clearly in the Terms now.

“To provide you the Service and improve the Service and Authorized Devices, we may collect certain information about Service performance, your Authorized Device, and your Service and Authorized Device use. We may automatically upload this information from your Authorized Device. Such data may include console hardware and operating performance data, unique identifiers on game discs, network performance, and Service quality data. In the event you are using the console with Kinect, we may also collect data about the way in which you interact with the console and the Service to improve Microsoft products and services. ”

Microsoft’s Kinect is based off of motion detection, cameras, and microphones able to detect multiple people in various parts of the room all at once along with their body motion. Now you’re trying to tell me that if I leave my XBox on, Microsoft “may” automatically upload information it obtains from Kinect at any time without my knowledge? What exactly does that mean? If my Kinect is in the bedroom and I leave it on by accident, am I or anyone in my room going to end up on Microsoft’s Funniest Home Videos? As much as I’d love for this to be a real joke, it’s not, it’s a potential Big Brother inside your house watching and listening to you live your private life.

“You should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features (for example, voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions) offered through the Service. These communications may be monitored; however, we cannot monitor the entire Service and make no attempt to do so. You understand that these communications can be recorded and used by others, and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions may be broadcast to others. Some games may utilize game managers and hosts. Game managers and hosts are not authorized Microsoft spokespersons, and their views do not necessarily reflect those of Microsoft. We do not routinely monitor your use of the communication features of the Service. However, to the maximum extent permitted by law, we may monitor your communications and may disclose information about you as set forth in this Section 9.”

So now not only can “information” from Kinect be uploaded automatically at any time, but I can have no reasonable expectation of privacy any time I’m connected to the XBox Live service using a communication feature… Wait a sec… isn’t one of Kinect’s biggest features the ability to have video chat sessions with other people through box XBox Video Chat and also Hotmail as well? Yeah…

None of the in-game chat is really any much of an issue, obviously anyone can hear that and it’s totally public. It’s the part where they say “for example, voice chat” etc… feature that concerns me. “For example” doesn’t exactly tell us what it means entirely and to me that means they pretty much can listen to anything at anytime on XBox Live and do with it what they wish. Add in the stuff about the Kinect and to me (a confirmed believer in crude tactics of businesses) this pushes the boundaries of what I think I would be comfortable with having in the middle of my bedroom or living room. To be quite honest, I think it just killed my desire to own one at all.

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