The new Xbox One is meant to heavily rely on kinect for voice commands and will, eventually enable two-way conversations. It will also rely on facial recognition that can tell if someone new enters the room. This has led to some very creepy scenarios in which privacy advocates have begun discussing.
Naturally, the first thought is of advertisements. Microsoft owns Skype and its users recently found out that Skype listens in on calls. It isn’t that far of a leap to see a world where a person’s Skype connections are automatically added to the Xbox. With this go the following scenarios.
Microsoft will keep track of the number, age, and gender of people in a household even if they do not play games because their facial recognition will be able to identify family members. It will be able to keep track of how long a person plays for and how often, as well as record which activity was being performed. It will know when and how long a person is playing a game, streaming video, or watching television. This will be a gold mine for advertisers as they keep track of how long people stay to watch a game, when people give up on a game, when people turn off television shows, and how many people are partaking in a particular activity. The users will be told that it will all be done to make their “experience” more enjoyable while Microsoft and advertisers design even more targeted ads to get a person to spend money on their products.
Several people have assumed that, because kinect can determine how many people are in the room, it will be able to know if a group of people is too large to watch a movie and force a charge to watch a movie or television program. There is no way, at the moment, to determine this, but the speculation is out there already and isn’t being addressed yet by Microsoft. Microsoft do, however, own a patent for just such a thing.
We know that the Xbox One can identify people in the room and will ask them who they are if it doesn’t have their name on file. It is trying to be your only media device in your house. It can monitor heart rate and facial expressions, and has built in voice recognition. The console is always on, leaving the door open to a lot of privacy abuses as it logs everything that is happening in the room.
Before anyone thinks that facial and voice recognition aren’t that good, take a look at the video that Microsoft presented showing just how good it is.
Microsoft also recently changed the terms of service for the kinect. They now reserve the right to gather data from your kinect and pass that information on to their partners and advertisers. If you continue to use the kinect, there is no opting out. The Xbox One will require the kinect, so, if you don’t want your information passed on, your only option is to not purchase one.
Technologically, the Xbox One is really cool, but, when one factors in the privacy implications of a media device that’s always on and keeps track of every single thing a person does, it becomes far too creepy. Invading people’s privacy with a full-fledged tracking and logging device so that companies can make money is not something someone should ever want in their house. Before considering purchasing the Xbox One, users need to remember that this fancy new black box is controlled by a corporation. You, as the end user, have very little say is how you will be tracked and what data about yourself will be kept. You don’t know where it will be kept, who will have access to it, or how long it will be stored.
Since the Xbox One isn’t actually out yet, consumers can push Microsoft for more answers. Changes can be made. The main problem is that Microsoft have given so many conflicting reports already that speculation is going to remain until the actual console ships and people can see for themselves whether or not all the privacy concerns have been addressed. Microsoft says you won’t have any privacy concerns, but others question this stance. For now, many should heed the words of German Data Protection Commissioner, Peter Schaar, who has stated that the Xbox One is a “monitoring device” and a “twisted nightmare.”