Every single Xbox One sold will come bundled with a next-generation Kinect system, and it has people worried that it’ll usher in the world envisaged in George Orwell’s 1984; one where “the man” always has its eyes fixed on you. Microsoft would like to assure you that the next-generation Xbox and its next-generation Kinect aren’t next-generation surveillance systems set on destroying your privacy.
“Microsoft has very, very good policies around privacy. We’re a leader in the world of privacy, I think you’ll find,” former Sony guy and current Microsoft Games Studios vice president Phil Harrison told Eurogamer in an interview.
“We take it very seriously. We aren’t using Kinect to snoop on anybody at all. We listen for the word ‘Xbox on’ and then switch on the machine, but we don’t transmit personal data in any way, shape or form that could be personally identifiable to you, unless you explicitly opt into that.”
The thing is that it doesn’t matter whether or not they use the tech for nefarious purposes – because the potential is there – and that classes the Xbox One as a surveillance system in some territories, like Germany, Austria and Australia.
Tim Vines, director at Civil Liberties Australia told GameFix that the Xbox One meets the criteria of being a surveillance device.
"Microsoft’s new Xbox meets the definition of a surveillance device under some Australian laws, so they need to be upfront and tell customers whether anyone else can intercept their information or remotely access their device," Vines said.
Equally concerned is Berlin’s federal data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar who says the thing is more of monitoring device than it is a console.
"The Xbox One continuously records all sorts of personal information about me. My reaction rates, my learning or emotional states. These are then processed on an external server, and possibly even passed on to third parties."
"The fact that Microsoft could potentially spy on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare."
The same sort of fears surfaced with the original Kinect – but with the expanded technology in place for the next generation, it could get even worse.