Is Your Xbox Watching You? New Game Console Collects More Than You May Know.

Via Tara Lemieux
on Jun 12, 2013
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“When a private talk over a bottle of wine is broadcast on the radio, what can it mean but that the world is turning into a concentration camp?” ― Milan Kundera

My son came to me just the other day, and quite understandably distressed.

“Mom,” he said, “I’m done with Microsoft. They can keep their Xbox Kinect, it’s creepy.”

For those of you, myself included, that need a little extra techie-geek translation particularly in the earlier hours of the early morning―the Xbox is one of the world’s most popular gaming systems and the Kinect is Microsoft’s innovative peripheral device designed to ‘draw the player into the Xbox gaming experience .’

Now, before I go any further along in this story…let me first explain that my son is an ‘avid gamer.’ This is his one outlet, his ‘time on the couch’ decompressing after a long day. Ask him anything about game play, strategy, Corporate plans for new games, the so-called ‘benefits’ of game play with respect to hand-eye coordination…he’ll tell you. He’s also been featured as one of Xbox Live’s top gamers.

I don’t really know what that means, but apparently it’s a very big deal.

I have limits imposed, of course – and my son, never hesitates to drop that controller  to join me on any one of my fabulous treks into nature. And, as he is always quite encouraging as I struggle to regain my strength, center and balance―I afford him this one indulgence in his day.

We are human, after all. And this, has become somewhat of our mother to teenage son balance.

Having said this, you can imagine my shock when my son approached me to offer that he had ‘simply had enough.’

When he explained his reasoning, and my inferior technical mind was finally able to trot along and catch up―I was absolutely stunned. I had assumed that the Kinect was simply another peripheral device for the ever-popular Microsoft Xbox gaming system. By the advertisements, it appeared its main purpose was to virtually integrate the motion of the gamer into the Xbox game.

That’s pretty cool, right?

My son shared with me a copy of the most recent  ‘privacy notice’ sent out to all Xbox users. It was a fuzzy attempt at reassuring users that the ‘data’ gathered by the Kinect would be secure. In light of recent news events, you can imagine my overall discomfort and parental hesitation.

Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft unveiled their newest upgrades to the ever-popular gaming system,  showcasing its ‘always-on feature.’ They demonstrated by showing a short clip of a user walking into a room and waking the device up from its low power state with a simple voice command, “Xbox On.” Once powered on the device would begin to collect information designed to enhance the user experience.

You would think the simple answer would be simply to disconnect the Kinect, toss it in the trash and go on your merry gaming way. But it’s not that simple. You see, this next generation of gaming system requires the use of the Kinect and it’s ‘always on’ feature in order to function. Microsoft insists this change was intended to allow “the new Xbox to respond quickly and naturally to you, whenever you need it.”

So, what could possibly go wrong?

The issues with privacy are, in part, related to the Xbox’s built in microphone and camera―which Microsoft boasts are “so sensitive to your presence, that (they) can even read your heartbeat while you’re exercising, and recognize and process audio that’s personalized to specific individuals.”

And, if that’s not enough to cause a little spike in the resting heart rate, it’s reported that Microsoft’s use of biometric data is not specifically limited to enhancing the gaming experience.

According to Sara Downey,

“Microsoft, game companies, and advertisers will know exactly who’s sitting in front of the TV. They’ll know your voice, your face, the games you like to play, the TV shows you watch, the music you have on the Xbox’s hard drive, and the ads you see. It could enable a new era of targeted ads that are even more accurate because they’ll change with whoever’s using the TV. Microsoft has already filed a “living room snooping patent” that detects how many people are watching and makes them buy access to content, like movies, depending on how many eyes there are.”

Couple this with the integration of online game data storage, chat tools, web browsing, and user file storage―and, I agree with my son, that’s just kind of creepy.

Science fiction author, C.M. Kornbluth, once postulated that we might one day live in a world in which advertisement and other such things were so powerful that the reaches of their grasp would be inescapable. Have we become so dependent on our electronic devices that we are now inseparable? And, if so, at what cost?

And, should companies who knowingly share this information with government officials and third-party vendors have full access without our explicit consent?

What laws are in place to protect the security of our most personal information?

The short answer is that there are none. The legal community is woefully behind in this area of judicial due process. As it stands, if I walk into my son’s room to put a few socks away…I am, in a sense, ‘consenting to monitoring.’ And, once my information is collected, it no longer belongs to me.

So what is Microsoft’s official response to this public outcry?

“We are working to redesign so that you can turn it off.”

Pardon me folks, but even for this generally carefree and well-grounded hippie Buddhist – that scares the hell out of me.

Video: What’s Yours is Theirs.

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About Tara Lemieux

Tara Lemieux is a mindful wanderer, and faithful stargazer. She is an ardent explorer and lover of finding things previously undiscovered (or, at the very least, mostly not-uncovered.) When she’s not writing, you can find her walking in the woods and sometimes changing the way we look at things, one simple moment at a time. You can contact her at via her website Mindfully Musing or, take one second to "LIKE" her on Facebook at Tara's Facebook Page. Or email her directly at [email protected]. All roads will lead to one home, and rest assured she (and Nudnick, the wonder dog) would LOVE to hear from you.


11 Responses to “Is Your Xbox Watching You? New Game Console Collects More Than You May Know.”

  1. Nelet says:

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  2. The advertising aspects are truly the most frightening to me. Being able to analyze voice for the number of individuals, ages and sexes, advertisers can deliver very targeted ads to their audience. It certainly feels like an invasion of privacy! Unfortunately, it seems like this is the direction that both technology and the world-norm are headed so at some point we will either have to accept it or live without technological advancements.

    Thanks for the insightful post Tara. 🙂

  3. Tinh Le says:

    Hi every body! Is Xbox Kinect really good? I'm finding information about it.

  4. Thanks for the insightful post Tara. 🙂

  5. Gaming Pc says:

    I love a well-created article just like several internet based readers. I actually had been amazed that this info was so fascinating. You've offered me cause to reflect on several aspects of your own content material. I actually adore that.

  6. Say what you may, but I still prefer PC gaming over any other console.

  7. Microsoft is the primary major gaming system creator to set up a creation line there. I also really like x-box multiplayer gaming is preferable to previously, using effortless dating and a semi-pro reputation process.

  8. dave says:

    creepy is definately the word for this. how can a gaming consloe targeted at chidlren be permitted to obtain such personal information?? im a little annoyed that there has been no investigation as to whether this is legal or not

  9. Dolores says:

    I love games and my kids love them too. I think we should be aware and informed since a lot of us take things for granted. It is very creepy and I think they should not be allowed.

  10. I have read your article and Its really very excellent and very useful
    for other reader who are interested on this topic.

  11. Anderson says:

    Lemieux, you told the underluying truth of the modern civilization. we are sharing our personal information with the tech giant. they are using this info to grow their business more and more. moreover, it is creating problem to our social life.