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

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