Is Microsoft Using XBox and Kinect To Spy On You?

Along with the new XBox 360 Dashboard update, there’s also an updated XBox Live Terms of Service which can be found here. Nothing new about that except that if you look a little into the details of what the ToS includes, you’ll find a few interesting little tidbits that might put a damper on some of your days as they were before and if you’re a conspiracy theorist, it’s time to get out the tinfoil…

We can start off easy…

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.”

Essentially, Microsoft would appear to be trying to put an end to the glitch game and I’m curious to find out how they might try to address someone making videos of glitches they find in games and sharing them on sites like YouTube or some other site. I would expect the glitches will continue to be found but this most likely means no more taking credit for finding them with your gamertag visible or else you’d risk losing your account. Can’t say I’m totally against it since bugs and glitches ruin so many games that would otherwise be great online, but then again sometimes the glitches or bugs are a lot of fun to exploit and if it’s nothing malicious then no harm no foul, right? Anyway, this isn’t that big of a deal, let’s move on..

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.

These two are what start to eat at me a bit and give me a bad feeling…

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.

Speaking of…what do we have here a little further down?

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.

It’s bad enough we have to be on camera almost everywhere we go these days, now the one thing we had to just relax and hang out with our friends on…

Let’s just call it what it is, an attractive fun filled device intentionally brought in your home with 4 microphones, 2 cameras, an infrared motion sensor, and a license to freely record and upload your activity….

I think I just heard James Bond shed a tear of joy…

For more info on Microsoft’s Kinect, click here

For another interesting similar article about Microsoft working with the government behind our backs, click here

How do you feel about these new additions to the Terms of Service?

Comment below!

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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 Gaming News

15 Comments to Is Microsoft Using XBox and Kinect To Spy On You?

  • Josh says:

    Very good article.. I was thinking the same thing when i read the new ToS and considering kinects potential to film video/sound/ect i’am really worried about this new technology.. I for one wont be buying Kinect, i refuse to be spied on by MS or have my info sold to advertisers.

  • JEExxx187 says:

    I think you may be reading a little far between the lines here. What the first ‘worrying’ section of the terms of service basically means is that Microsoft is going to look at what you buy and play for your Kinect in order to get a broad view of what people are enjoying to play, this is very similar to what supermarkets and credit card companies already do, they will look at your statements and receipts to see what you are buying and the country as a whole so they can get a good idea of whats popular and whats not and thus adjust theyre stores layouts or offers to maximise profits. Hardly a consipracy theorists wet dream.
    The second ‘worrying’ statement i will agree is a little odd, but not completly out of the realms of normal behaviour for multi-national conglomarates such as Microsoft. What you have to remember is the info they can intercept it only available to them when you are online and using it, they cant remotly power up your system, sign you in and then go looking around on your Kinect Camera, and why would they? so they can see your empty front room and last nights left over pizza boxes? As for the data they will intercept, it makes sense that Microsoft will want to make sure that dangerous groups of people (like terrorist groups or race hate groups like the KKK) are using their service to promote theyre beliefs and planning attacks etc.. which could in some way bring Microsoft into the spotlight, i imagine the way the software is set up is to pick up certain key words, weve all heard stories of our governments doing the same thing, picking up words like ‘bomb’ or ‘president’ or ‘the queen’ and then a computer recording the rest of the conversation and flagging it to be checked. This may or may not be the case, i dont know, but what i do know is that microsoft dont give a crap about your conversation about noob stomping with your best online buddies or that your grandmother is visiting this weekend. : )

    • BiG DaH says:

      JEExxx187: Admittedly I’m pushing the limit of what these terms permit, but that’s really kinda the point I’m making. How far are we willing to allow based on trust? Of course I don’t think Microsoft is sitting there trying to spy on anyone and their grandma, it’s just the fact that they now have us legally accepting them being able to do so if they wish. Just something for people to think about, that’s all.

    • Azuira says:

      So what your saying is we cant pause the xbox Have sex with my wife and say she shes “the Bomb” without having to worry about MS staff capturing all our moans and groans because we say a few words in a different context.

      So the article is correct.

  • JEExxx187 says:

    sorry, the above should say ‘Microsoft will want to make sure that dangerous groups of people ARE NOT using….’ !!!

  • Crucial Thought says:

    I think the public and especially those who are brainwashed into feeling the need to buy every new faddish device (i-phone, i-pad, kinnect) while deluding themselves that it is for their own (and not the corporations) benefit need to rethink, wake up and realise that we are all, “pawns in the game” (also a very good book), the corporations will stop at nothing* to spy, dominate, control and subjugate the docile masses into moving within the confines of parameters set and defined by them.

    Think about it!
    We are in a psychological, political, technological war for the self.

    *Illegal wars
    False flag terror attacks
    Media manipulation
    Colllapse of financial markets
    Using bailout money for bankster bonuses

  • JimmyHacka says:

    I think the disclaimer speaks for it self! Before to long hackers will have fun with this…..;oD

  • randy says:

    I found that xbox off and kinext plugged in it moved when walked through the room I thought I was carzy but My wife confirmmed so do leave it plugged in dont know it has onboard battery do not trust mircosoft who supplies the goverment there software a hacker him self. Take that for what it is worth I just advise be careful we might live in america but where is microsofts support from and hardware made and what job can you get

  • brando705 says:

    people have been stealing my ideas for years :( anyways to get serious now i think its too invasive but i guess accroding to the “Law” they arn’t doing anything illegal so the best thing to do would be to just not bring one into your home if your worried about anything.

  • josh says:

    dude, after i read the terms i searched xboxs new terms online to find a forum to see if anyone else actually read that. and dude, it spooked the fuck out of me. they can just listen in, and watch whenever the fuck they want. the govt got to facebook, of course they got microsoft.
    were really not safe anywhere.
    what is privacy these days

    • Kev says:

      They said they can upload stats about your Xbox use/kinect use. Your paranoid, if they were just spying on you all day someone would know about it and actually catch them in the act (via packet sniffing).

  • Govt is criminal says:

    Hmm, this sounds like the big CIA operation that has already started storing all your emails, text messages, phone conversations all in a massive ( undisclosed ) city in the states it is slowly been catagorized and sorted it is soo massive that one day your kid could be working for the government and come across an email that your dad sent 5 years back. – But here is my point ( who says microsoft aint doing the same thing storing everything of everything live feed right from your kinect storing it in massive servers using your ip address for location tagging and using cispa too snatch your name and indentity… sooooo now they have your location, identity, a recent photo, any incriminating things you may have said or did infront of the kinect will be used against you….. Yah I suggest you stay away from Kinect.

  • Jezza says:

    This just got so real with Xbox One

  • […] For somebody who is privacy minded this is especially troubling, knowing that your gaming console is capable of monitoring what you’re doing. And to go along with that Microsoft’s policies don’t do much to make you feel better about that. […]

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