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Kinect alarms privacy watchdogs, but can be deactivated

Monday, 27th May 2013 23:35 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The creepy always-listening feature of the Xbox One’s new Kinect has raised the hackles of privacy watchdogs in Germany and Australia, but Microsoft has said the feature can be disabled by those unnerved by machine surveillance.

Since revealing the Xbox One and Kinect’s ability to switch on at any time in response to voice command, and its ability to capture all kinds of video data during use, privacy concerns have been raised regarding how Microsoft might collect, transmit and use said data.

“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,” Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines told NineMSN.

“People should have the ability to turn off the camera or microphone, even if it limits the functionality of the machine. If Microsoft doesn’t allow that, then people should vote with their wallets and skip the next Xbox.”

Also via NineMSN, Berlin’s federal data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, expressed similar sentiments while speaking to Spiegel Online.

“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,” he said.

“The fact that Microsoft could potentially spy on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare.”

It’s not clear that the Xbox One and Kinect do actually record and pass on this sort of information, as Microsoft’s messaging to date has been somewhat confusing. But Jeff Henshaw, the group program manager for Xbox Incubation, told CNET users will be able to switch the camera off.

“If you want privacy, we’ll give you modes that ensure your privacy,” he said.

“We will have something similar for the Kinect with Xbox One. The system is designed to have Kinect be an integral part of the experience. It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether. But you’ll be able to put the system in modes where you can be completely secure about the fact that the camera is off and can’t see you.”

Henshaw also directed users to existing privacy policies for the original Kinect; a detailed FAQ is available online.

Microsoft boss Phil Harrison said recently that the Kinect won’t be used to snoop.

Thanks, woe, SplatteredHouse.

Breaking news

61 Comments

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  1. pukem0n

    thats the first time Microsoft said you can turn it off.

    Well, all the paranoid people can go back to sleep now ^^

    #1 11 months ago
  2. POOP CRUSTY

    Glad companies like these are taking a stand for us. After all this debacle, the X1 won’t be under my Christmas tree anytime soon.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Sang2

    #1 They said you can turn the camera off, but they didn’t mention the microphone. This is why I ask myself why can’t I just unplug the cord when I don’t want to use my xbox. Simple no?

    #3 11 months ago
  4. POOP CRUSTY

    @1
    True, but why does it take them so long to bring out the answers, and is it an answer with an asterisk?
    Too many questions and so many answers that go halfway answered. E3 is almost here so hopefully all this backlash will make them rethink some things….Doubtful though.

    #4 11 months ago
  5. POOP CRUSTY

    @3
    I thought the same thing. Knowing Microsoft though, something will be implemented to negate that somehow.

    #5 11 months ago
  6. Richenbaum

    @5 yeah man they’ll probably have like secret everlasting batteries in there so it can run even without being plugged in and steal all your couch sitting secrets! those bastards!

    #6 11 months ago
  7. xAKUM3TSUx

    @#1 & #3
    That’s what I’m saying. Most of the news lately has been especially shady.
    At least they gave some clearance FINALLY. For me though, personally, it’s not even near enough.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. ps3fanboy

    “The system is designed to have Kinect be an integral part of the experience. It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether.”….. with that said don’t be fooled, this can never be trusted. you will have no control over it. remember you’re dealing with micro$oft here. so earning money is more important than anything else.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. actuallyisnotafox

    xbox one pr is getting worse and worse :/

    #9 11 months ago
  10. Richenbaum

    @8 that would be pretty funny if you really believed that the Sony electronics corporation cared about you.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. ps3fanboy

    @10 Richenbaum, if you know japanese culture you would also know they are very respectful of their customers.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. Richenbaum

    @11 so what? I can walk into a McDonalds and they’ll be respectful and make my burger just how I want it. doesn’t mean they give a shit about me. they’re there to make money. that’s the bottom line of every business. that’s why they don’t sell their products at actual cost and why they make billions of dollars in profits. that’s how the real world works, but you already know all of this you little troll you.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. POOP CRUSTY

    @6
    You miss the point…But whatever.

    #13 11 months ago
  14. Richenbaum

    @13 no I got the point just fine. one exaggeration deserves another.

    #14 11 months ago
  15. ps3fanboy

    @14 congratulation, you missed the point and made an idiot out of yourself. here’s a tip for you keyboard warrior. maybe next time try climb down from your high horse, and shrink a little bit that pompous ego of yours, you will do better.

    #15 11 months ago
  16. Richenbaum

    @15 oh noes! blatant cliche troll kid is trying poorly to belittle me! better go commit seppuku like the respectful Sony people would do!

    #16 11 months ago
  17. POOP CRUSTY

    @14
    Exaggerating how?
    Did I come up with your angelic battery idea? No. Fact is Microsoft wants their way and they will get it one way or another. You would be delusional not to agree.

    #17 11 months ago
  18. ps3fanboy

    that Richenbaum guy is full of it, and grow more delusional for each post he make. its best not to feed the troll..

    #18 11 months ago
  19. Richenbaum

    @17 you explain to me how they are going to “negate” you pulling the plug on the console to turn it off then. tell me how that works.

    @18 aw look at you you little parrot. you can’t even come up with your own words to express your butthurt.

    #19 11 months ago
  20. NightCrawler1970

    Just dont buy that stupid kintec, problem solves…

    Unless you can use that kintec as alarm-system, it will save $$$, start recording when motion/voice detection(when ya on holiday or not home)..

    #20 11 months ago
  21. Phoenixblight

    @20

    Comes with Xbone along with it being needed in order to play the system. SO what you meant is don’t buy the console. Problem solved.

    #21 11 months ago
  22. POOP CRUSTY

    @19
    On the older consoles(ps1,2 and xbox) Your settings would reset if the console was plugged off for too long. Really didn’t matter since settings then was only time. Far fetched Idea but they can simply make your account null and have to recover it if plugged off for more that 24hr. Anything like that can be implemented not just what I said. Will it happen, probably not. Is it impossible, no.

    #22 11 months ago
  23. NightCrawler1970

    @21, wow really, i thought Kintec is just an addon not forced to buy in new game-console.. so.. buy a Xbox one is Kintec included?

    i guess allot of hardcore gamers willn’t even plug that spy-cam in.. they more happy with controler than that kintec…

    AND I BET that stupid Xbox One, will bitch about…

    *WARNING, MISS DEVICE NAMED KINTEC, PLEASE PLUG-IN KINTEC*, *PLEASE PRESS ANY KEY* TO PROCEED…

    #23 11 months ago
  24. Phoenixblight

    @23

    The kinect 2 is needed for the system to run so the core and hardcore will have to use it or just not buy the system.

    #24 11 months ago
  25. DarkElfa

    I was just gonna sit in front of the kinect and masturbate anyways.

    #25 11 months ago
  26. Richenbaum

    @22 I don’t think they would do that either, but good answer anyway. Personally if I end up with an xbone in my house (and I probably will, though I won’t be the one buying it), I will just put a bag on its head!

    #26 11 months ago
  27. Richenbaum

    @25 that’s what they were hoping for. then they will open xbone.com featuring amateur porn that you signed away the rights to when you clicked yes on the EULA without reading and make GAZILLIONS!

    #27 11 months ago
  28. NightCrawler1970

    @24, Thats sucks even more, but i bet the hardcore will deactivate that thing for 100%, it’s just for the decoration…

    I hope PS4 will do allot better…

    #28 11 months ago
  29. deraj

    “It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether.” Hacking forums are full of pics of people (mostly girls) whose cameras were “turned off.” The only safe cam / microphone is an unplugged one.

    #29 11 months ago
  30. Richenbaum

    what about one with a piece of tape on it? HAXORED!

    #30 11 months ago
  31. NightCrawler1970

    @25, or banging ya girlfriend on the couch, in dark or in well lit room, doesn’t matter Kintec have infrared, Microsoft have a free peep-show…

    #31 11 months ago
  32. Wulfsige85

    @ps3fanboy man for someone that does not like when xboxfanboys go to a ps3/ps4 discussion you sure love when you do it huh

    #32 11 months ago
  33. deraj

    @30 A piece of tape would stop a normal cam.. but Kinect 2 has infra-red.

    #33 11 months ago
  34. SlayerGT

    Im beginning to think if you CAN turn it off, but you MUST have it connected..that devs will be able to tap into it for extra processing. Doesn’t it have a processor in it? Why else would it HAVE to be connected?

    #34 11 months ago
  35. Cobra951

    @3: It can be even more user-friendly than that, as I mentioned in another thread: Plug the whole XB1 system along with the kinect into a switched power strip. Want it off? Turn the strip off! No need to be messing with AC plugs every day.

    #35 11 months ago
  36. G1GAHURTZ

    Hey, bdh, do you think that Microsoft is part of the illuminati?

    #36 11 months ago
  37. salarta

    You can’t remove the camera from the system but you can be sure that the camera is turned off? Yeah, I’m sure. This must be the same pixie dust solution to how webcams operate, where just because you turned it off means that there’s absolutely no way that someone else can hack into your webcam and turn it on remotely.

    I also find it fascinating that when it comes to the camera aspect, he doesn’t say that while you can’t turn it off, you can still turn it around so it isn’t facing you, for extra security to your privacy.

    #37 11 months ago
  38. G1GAHURTZ

    But are they illuminati or not??

    #38 11 months ago
  39. G1GAHURTZ

    Wow!

    Some serious business.

    So you’re getting a PS4, then, I suppose…

    #39 11 months ago
  40. G1GAHURTZ

    But what about Windows! Windows is also by Microsoft!

    Maybe the illuminati can spy on you through your webcam…

    You will have to get a Mac now.

    ..But Apple have Siri, which is also part of the illuminati, because it’s iris spelled backwards…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm_8yUvGYYs

    Linux, maybe?

    #40 11 months ago
  41. Richenbaum

    psh. don’t you know the lizardmen control the pc market?

    #41 11 months ago
  42. G1GAHURTZ

    No, Windows is evil.

    Uninstall it and save your privacy from the CIA!

    They want to record all our biometric data.

    #42 11 months ago
  43. Richenbaum

    @47 sure just like there’s no such thing as the illuminati right? ;)

    you do know that your computer is probably packed full of spyware and your email being monitored by your email provider and all that, right? you should get something like peer block and see how many different countries (and lizardmen) are scanning you daily. try it!

    #43 11 months ago
  44. Ireland Michael

    Ell ooh ell. This is funny stuff,

    Watchdog my ass. It’s just fear mongering. And if this thread is anything to go buy, they’re not lacking in guilable people to fall for it either.

    The X1 has many serious problems. This is the least of them.

    #44 11 months ago
  45. Richenbaum

    @50 yes nothing helps me sleep at night like the thought of secret lizardmen ruling the world. so god damn comforting. that and my tin foil hat.

    #45 11 months ago
  46. Malmer

    @51: What are all these many serious problems? As far as I can tell there are only two REAL problems. The rest is just exaggerations. 1) I will not, allegedly, not be able to lend a game to a friend. 2) It is rumored that used game prices might go up slightly.

    I can’t see what the big issue is. I can see how #1 could be a real issue though if true, but it still isn’t so big as to make the whole gaming sphere go bananas, And don’t give me the crap about once a day internet check. That is so much a non issue for 99.9% of the complainers.

    Seems to me some people are just upset that they didn’t show any games at the event where they said they woouldn’t be showing any games.

    #46 11 months ago
  47. G1GAHURTZ

    ^ Well summarised.

    #47 11 months ago
  48. redwood

    http://venturebeat.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/xbox-one-true-lies.gif?w=500

    #48 11 months ago
  49. Ireland Michael

    @53

    Always on 24 hour DRM for physical discs
    Pre-owned access DRM for physical discs
    No original ideas, just variations of old ones
    *Requiring* Kinect to run (allegedly)
    Non-removable HDD (allegedly)
    TV TV Sports Sports TV Sports TV
    All but one game shown had gameplay footage
    The one game that had looks like a last gen title

    They can claim they’ve got all the exclusives they want, but Microsoft has barely had a single inspired idea in the past five years. I’m not expecting that to change. For its first few years, they were spitting out original exclusives like there was no tomorrow, but its just been the same tired franchises over and over again for a long time now.

    As it stands, the only reason I even use the 360 half the time nowadays is simply because its the machine that most of my friends that I play multiplayer games with have… and most of them are vowing to jump ship to the PS4 due to Microsoft’s completely ass ends backwards attitude towards its consumer base.

    Contrary to popular belief, most consumers *don’t* actually appreciate being fucked royally up the ass by a company.

    #49 11 months ago
  50. Wulfsige85

    @Malmer thank you I mean come on wait till after E3 and then talk shit if they don’t deliver

    @Ireland Michael well you do know sony may do most of the same right?

    #50 11 months ago
  51. The_Red

    @56

    Requiring Kinect to Run and Non-removable HDD are not alleged, they were confirmed by separate MS execs.

    #51 11 months ago
  52. Ireland Michael

    @57 In relation to the points I mentioned…

    - If Sony does the same with DRM, I won’t be supporting the PS4 either
    - They’ve shown a strong set of social gaming features that I really like
    - Kinect obviously isn’t an issue with PS4, and Move isn’t mandatory
    - Not only can you replace a HDD on the PS3, you can use a proper one
    - Sony has consistently released many strong new IPs on their formats

    @58 Well there you go then.

    Thanks for the clarifications.

    #52 11 months ago
  53. Malmer

    Can’t see how the kinect requirement is a problem, since it is included and not something extra you have to buy. Kinect is a additive device. It won’t disable the use of the controller. The only negative thing I can see is that it takes up physicalspace. But if you REALLY are paranoid you can stuff it in a drawer and just have the cable reach the xbox (And besides PS4 will have it’s most probably included sensor bar, so you’re not camera-free there either).

    As for replacable HDD. That is a minor thing. Most PS3 users never even thought about doing it. And I wouldn’t be surpriced if the PS4 goes non-replaceable. Besides. Plug in a USB3 drive and you’ve expanded your storage space. Cheap and easy without messing with the hardware. If you want to replace parts, get a PC, not a console.

    So, still not seeing what the BIG problem is, making Microsoft the universe’s center of evil. Seems like most complainers are grasping at straws following the disappointment of the reveal focusing on the wider market aspects of the console, keeping the gamer focussed E3 for game reveals.

    #53 11 months ago
  54. CyberMarco

    @60

    “Can’t see how the kinect requirement is a problem, since it is included and not something extra you have to buy. Kinect is a additive device. It won’t disable the use of the controller.”

    It’ll increase the console’s cost however, and it’s a bit hard to believe that it will revolutionize gaming, again!

    “And besides PS4 will have it’s most probably included sensor bar, so you’re not camera-free there either.”

    This attitude is really asinine. Just cause Sony would implement the same features does it justify the purpose? If Sony follows suit you can bet there will be backlash too.

    #54 11 months ago
  55. M. K.

    I can’t even exactly tell you, how much I hate this. This is beyond random internet rage, this is… Seriously, how could they f**k up that badly? HOW?!

    I liked the first Xbox, I love my 360 (even if it has its flaws) but this?! Sure they want to make more money, but somehow, somehow they missed one thing, they must sell this damn box to make money. So how stupid do they think people are?

    “Oh cool a new camera. It’s this kinect thing right? I heard the first one was awesome, this one should be even greater? Wait what? It has to be turned on all the time and can watch and hear me? AWESOME GIVE ME FIVE OF ‘EM!”

    **** THIS!

    (Sorry, but I’m deeply disappointed. Not only because of microsoft, but because of the gaming business in general :( )

    #55 11 months ago
  56. MadFlavour

    Kinect is fucking Hitler.

    #56 11 months ago
  57. Ireland Michael

    “Can’t see how the kinect requirement is a problem, since it is included and not something extra you have to buy. Kinect is a additive device. It won’t disable the use of the controller.”

    The exact word so far has been that the device can’t be used without it being connected. Meaning that if it breaks, you’ll have to replace it just to use you machine. Whether this is true is up for debate, but that is why I said allegedly. A man tort device for optional features is nothing but greed.

    “And besides PS4 will have it’s most probably included sensor bar, so you’re not camera-free there either.”

    My issue isn’t with the camera. It’s with making it a mandatory requirement just to use the device. You seem to be under the assumption that I would give Sony a free pass for doing the same things as Microsoft. I wouldn’t.

    “As for replacable HDD. That is a minor thing.”

    Not when installs are mandatory, it isn’t. What you do two / three years down the line when the drive doesn’t have enough storage for the games you own? Delete stuff constantly? 500GB is not a lot of space when games can be anywhere up to 25GB in size,

    “And I wouldn’t be surpriced if the PS4 goes non-replaceable.”

    It would be an issue if the PS4 did it too.

    “Plug in a USB3 drive and you’ve expanded your storage space. Cheap and easy without messing with the hardware.”

    That’s assuming such a device would work. And how much space does one of those usually have?

    “So, still not seeing what the BIG problem is.”

    That’s because you want to dismiss me every single point as irrelevant, simply because it doesn’t seem relevant to you, and you have absolutely no desire to see the culumative effects of these decisions or how they would impact the average consumer.

    You also ignore half my reasons, so I’d say you’re being incredibly selective in your lack of criticism.

    “keeping the gamer focussed E3 for game reveals.”

    Even if they deliver great games, I still have no desire to support it because of the draconian DRM.

    #57 11 months ago
  58. The_Red

    It can be deactivated but then, so must the freaking CONSOLE… And no, this is not some rumor. This was confirmed by an Xbox friendly site like Polygon.

    #58 11 months ago
  59. Ireland Michael

    @69 According to reports, no. The Kinect will be required to run for the machine to function.

    #59 11 months ago
  60. Djoenz

    @BDH is Rothschild involved as well>>?? OHHHHHHH

    #60 11 months ago
  61. Ireland Michael

    Nobody cares.

    #61 11 months ago