Microsoft Will Redeem Kinect with Xbox One, Won’t Violate Privacy

Published 1 year ago by

Xbox One Kinect Violate Privacy

“Xbox On.” With those two words, Microsoft‘s Yusuf Mehdi seemingly changed gamers’ perception of motion control cameras, and how they can interact with them.

Up until that point, the Kinect had been almost like an opt-in service, where the player needed to turn on their console before the device did its little head nod and then sprung into action. The Xbox One’s version of Kinect, however, appeared to be a bit more “aware” — springing to life even while the console was seemingly powered down. It was almost as if the Kinect was watching and waiting until it was called upon.

This singular feature instantly called into question the idea of privacy, something that has plagued the Kinect for quite some time. If such a device could stay active even while the console was offline, what else was it doing?

Then came a patent application that suggested Microsoft was looking to use the Kinect as a form of visual DRM. According to the patent, the motion controller would monitor the viewers of a piece of media (movie, TV show, etc.), and determine if the end-user had purchased the correct license. In other words, the Kinect was like a theater employee at a movie who makes sure you’re in the right show.

As we reported late last week, though, Microsoft’s patent isn’t necessarily tied to current plans; rather, the company purports they were simply covering their bases. Plain and simple, they wanted to explain the visual DRM feature will not be included in the Xbox One.

Microsoft’s Phil Harrison further emphasized the company’s dedication to privacy in an interview with Eurogamer:

“Yep. Microsoft has very, very good policies around privacy. We’re a leader in the world of privacy, I think you’ll find. 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.”

While it seems like the Kinect will be able to react without the Xbox One being powered on, Harrison promises the machine will not transmit any personal data. He didn’t say it wouldn’t be listening or watching, only that the data Kinect collected would not be used in a way that violates gamers’ privacy.

Xbox One Kinect Visual DRM

Gamers are still very wary of Kinect 2.0, and rightfully so. Privacy is hard to come by these days, especially when an active camera is lying “dormant” in their living rooms or bedrooms.

At the same time, Microsoft is looking to continue to push Kinect as a mandatory Xbox peripheral. Every Xbox One will ship with Kinect 2.0 and the device will be a requirement when operating the console. Kinect, at least in Microsoft’s eyes, is not a fad, and support for the device is getting more extensive.

Phil Harrison believes Microsoft will redeem Kinect in the next-gen by making it an integral part of daily media consumption. With players using Kinect to watch cable TV, navigate websites, and for (of course) gaming, the hope is that they will see the motion controller as part of the central Xbox One experience. Will that actually happen? We’ll find out when the console launches later this year.

How do you feel about Kinect? Do you see it as a potential violation of privacy? Will greater support and implementation of Kinect convince you it’s worthwhile?

Source: Eurogamer

TAGS: Kinect, Microsoft, Xbox Live, Xbox One

  • jwalka

    ‘won’t violate privacy’ hehehe you know they will when they outright say they won’t 😛 the more new info that comes out about this train wreck of a ‘gaming console’ the less and less i am interested and the further they dig themselves in a hole of no return 😛

    good luck b/c you;re gonna need it to get out of the next gen console war alive 😉

    • ATG

      They’re going to record us and use it for commercials lol

      • jwalka

        think about it this way:

        a friend comes over and starts talking about terrorism, or bombs or drugs… that little piece of s*** sitting on the other end of the room records everything every time of the day. much like how phone calls and emails are filtered before going to the person you send it to, i assume the same will happen with this bs.

        make as much fun of me as you want, but the reality is that people crave power, and this is another way of m$ sticking its fingers further up common people’s a**es.

        • Josh Calkins

          Let’s not be so trusting. I shouldn’t have to trust my privacy to MS just so I can play games. Of course, the worst case reality doesn’t mean that there are secret men with headphones and screens monitoring us at all times. Most of us aren’t interesting enough to employ a full time spy. The idea is that the option is there to violate our privacy at any time, and to watch and to listen, and to record and to transmit. That is some spooky new s#!+.

  • 1Wildgamerchild

    What a crazy conspiracy theory thinking that Microsoft is gonna spy on you with the kinect. They could have done that with the web cameras in your laptops. If anybody would spy on you they’d use the cameras on the front and back on your cell phones. There are too many wild rumors, misinterpretations, and lies about a system they barely revealed. They’re saving some info until E3. At least Microsoft showed us what the system looked like and not just a controller.

    • notcaring

      Yea cause showing the design really matters. Ever think Sony was too focused on just showing us what their GAME system could do? Ever think they might figure GAMERS would care more about GAMES?! 1Wild, your love for Xbox is commendable but stop being a fanboy. At every opportunity you feel the need to bash Sony. Take the high road and love your console and still hope for the best of the other.

      • notcaring

        I realized I came off as attacking and I am sorry.

        • 1Wildgamerchild

          Thanks for apologizing. I might have retaliated before reading your apology and I apologize myself. So disregard the comment below.

      • 1Wildgamerchild

        We already know what a game console can do…play games…duh. Let’s see what’s new and innovative about the next gen consoles and why we should buy one. Many people including game makers feel like it’s too soon to even have new consoles come out. If you’re gonna reveal any games let it be actual gameplay on the system and controller. I don’t want to see game cutscenes and trailers. If you’re upset I’m a XO fanboy that means you’re probably a PS fanboy yourself. I haven’t seen what the PS4 can really do. Sony didn’t reveal much at all either…a controller, like that really matters. I plan on getting both systems though. That’s how I’ll hope for the best for both systems. That’s if the PS4 isn’t $600 at launch like the PS3 was.

        • notcaring

          You still however didnt fully read my comment. I said take the high road, love your console and still hope for the best for the other. You still couldnt resist bashing Sony. I am a Sony fanboy but Sony showed a game console for what it is, just that, a game console. MS showed an expensive machine taht Executives have stated things that are very disconcerting. I hope Xbox One comes out and is everything each Xbox fan hopes it to be. No competition breeds laziness. i just prefer my console to be first and foremost about gaming not what MS has seemingly brought to the table. I also never said I was upset about you being an X1 fanboy, again read a comment before just going on your 1WildTangent. Now I hope we can start having civilized conversations after this one.

          • 1Wildgamerchild

            Just asking…why would you tell me to stop being a XO fanboy but turn around admit that you’re a Sony fanboy? I don’t think that’s taking a high road. And I say this very civilized that Sony didn’t show a game console “for what it is” because there was no console…just game trailers. It’s funny how Sony showed very little and some PS fans act like it was so much but Microsoft showed little but it wasn’t enough. I won’t comment again until after E3.

          • notcaring

            Again read, you arrogant ass. I never once told you to stop. You read what you want to, not what is written. I will not stoop to your level and bash my consoles competitor. I want them both to do well as a true gamer would. I truly hope you have a good day, but please grow up.

          • notcaring

            I see I did say stop bring a fanboy. Let me clearify , I should have said stop being the typical “console war” fanboy. I do love Sony, they have never let me down. However, I trully want all systems to succeed because others are fans. I do not feel the need to play a spin doctor.

        • chris

          wild i love the Xbox and Xbox 360. i am no fanboy tho. i also loved the ps1 and ps2, i do hope that Sony does well with the ps4 and i would be lieing to say i am not thinking of getting one. that being said you are being a bit biased. this has nothing to do with Sony this has to do with ms releasing a product like Xbox 1 with such privacy disrupting potential.

          if ms really wanted to dissuade any beliefs that the kinect module is a spy tool then don’t make it a necessity. the very fact they are making it so you have to have it connected shows that it can be used for just that purpose.

    • BigBallsBarry


      Kinect will operate differently to web-cameras in Laptops. It will be used to monitor activity alongside game interaction, and having an always-on camera would suggest it’s more intrusive than normal. You can disable the camera on your laptop, it’s supposedly not possible on Xbox One, so how’s it the same? Microsoft also have monthly surveys that ask what your console is used for, with this in place it won’t need to. You have to admit, they are becoming too controlling on how consumers use their machine.

      They also have an advertisement out on TV that says, “Your privacy is our priority”. A little bit misleading when you’re forced to have Kinect 2.0 just so you can play their games, isn’t it?

      • 1Wildgamerchild

        I said I wouldn’t comment until after E3 but I just wanted to quickly respond that I don’t believe Microsoft is going to deliberately spy in us. I think people took what little information they knew about the XO and turned it into all kinds of wild ideas and possibilities. Microsoft doesn’t have to spy on little kids playing video games. And a halfway decent hacker would be able to easily turn on a disabled web camera on a laptop anyway. The best way is to just throw some easy-to-peel masking tape or piece of cloth over the laptop camera lens until you’re ready to use it. The Kinect is not brand new just enhanced. So they could have been spying the whole time if they wanted to. If people are afraid of getting spied on they should throw away their cell phones. Most of them now have 2 cameras and a GPS. Xbox already monitors what I play because it periodically sends usage info to my email showing how many hours I played Call If Duty and other games. They already said it’s possible to play the XO without internet connection. But PS4 fans said no you couldn’t. I guess they know more than the Xbox fans do. Let’s wait and see for E3.

  • paul m

    “mandatory xbox peripheral”- i dont care what anyone promises, when you put a high def camera in my home,connected to the internet and tell me i dont have a choice about it, i tend to become wary.

    *correction,i do have a choice,ps4.

  • fester

    I love how even questioning the motives of a gigantic company is reduced to “crazy conspiracy theory”. Pardon the critical thinking skills of anyone that realizes that companies often do things that aren’t in the consumers best interest. Guess I’ll take my Soma with my Xbox.

    • 1Wildgamerchild

      There are 1000 ways in the world we could be spied on. Using a Kinect would be the lamest way…to watch me play a video game with just my boxers on. I doubt that’s anyone’s intentions.

      • doc

        It’s also a microphone with voice recognition capabilities. Don’t forget storage capacities are rising constantly. By now it is possible to, year after year, record every word you say in your living room and store it for decadeswith virtually no cost at all.

        Since it can all be converted into text it is also possible to automatically analyse the text and convert it into a personal profile.
        By now Microsoft has a lot of experience in this territory, due to their work with online search engines.

        If history has taught you anything, it’s that whatever CAN be attempted WILL be attempted at some point.

        And even if Microsoft doesn’t use this this information against you it his not unlikely that it WILL be stolen at some point. Not to mention that it will all be accessable by government agencies, Microsoft doesn’t even have a choice in this.

        • 1Wildgamerchild

          Why record my voice on the kinect when the govt. could do it with our cell phones? It’s with you all day and they can track you down. People are making up secret spy agent espionage movie like rumors when they really don’t know how the kinect really will be. People have the craziest ideas. We’re naming all the bad possibilities. One thing for sure you can tell we all play video games…maybe too many.

          • doc

            Smartphones aren’t all the same and most aren’t voice activated. If they were used for recording the battery drain and unnecessary traffic would raise eyebrows. It’s more of a thing of feasibility.

            But that only is one of the points I raised. The problem is, there is a lot of information and/or money to gain through this technology and all the possibilities are already open and on the table. They ARE being discussed:

            Just because they say they won’t gather information doesn’t mean they will not. Or that they won’t change their terms of service in the future. Or that the xbox won’t create a compressed, encrypted store of textlogs of your personal information (only for local user-preference optimisation of course) that will “accidentally” be uploaded to a microsoft server at some point because some technician checked a few wrong boxes when configuring the last update.

            Google swore not to gather any data about local wifi-signals with their streetview cars in germany. They did anyway and were fined (a laughable amount of money of course) they also swore they erased the gathered information. Yeah right.

            And with all this there STILL is the problem of vulnerability through hacking. Either someone hacking your local, always connected system or someone looting a company server like countless times before. (that we know of)
            As usual companies which let this happen are never really prosecuted or if they are, have to pay fines which tend to be somewhere around 0.001% of their quarterly turnover.
            As for the actual perpetrators, the Bosses, they never have to face any consequences whatsoever.

            I know that there are a lot of conspiracy stories. That’s why I don’t commit to any one specific theory. That would be just as gullible.
            And I don’t have to, the possibilities for abuse and the numbers of possible security holes is absolutely limitless. That alone should make your head spin.

            We hav NO reason whatsoever to trust a company like microsoft. They don’t have earned our trust and they aren’t obligated to any transparency. Their only obligation is profit.

          • 1Wildgamerchild

            Man that article was dated back to Nov.10 2010 when the very 1st Kinect came out. They could have been recording us back then but no one ever had issues. If anything I trust Microsoft with my personal information over Sony. I haven’t forgotten when the PSN network was down for a whole entire MONTH with them trying to fix security issues. While that was going on I was on Xbox Live playing team deathmatch. But anyway mostly all phones at least text and that could be stored. Or what about Facebook being accused of privacy matters and spying. There are 1000 ways to spy on us or violate our privacy. Most najor cities have surveillance cameras on the light poles connected to a central station. So why must a video console be the target of this issue. All corporations are about money incuding Sony. You just got to accept that if you want to use their products.

          • doc

            And it was just as outrageous back then as it is now.
            But then you could turn off the kinect back then and it wasn’t mandatory.

            As for your other points. Saying “others are just as bad or worse” is a very bad way of going about these things. Saying “privacy violations are everywhere so we shouldn’t care anyway” is nonsensical.
            Of course the outrage about the problem is relatively small because the number of people who even understand the implications of privacy violations in the time of the internet and limitless information-analysis capacities is still small. Most people are more worried about american idol or reality tv.

            No company has ever gained our trust because the problem is so young. Chances are they will abuse our trust because the awareness of the public and the authorities is either bound elsewhere or is still incapable of understanding the scope and the consequences of incidences of this kind. There still aren’t enough precedents. Most people aren’t really aware of the value of privacy until a stalker stands in front of their bathroom window. And most people never read 1984.

            Speaking of which 1984 might be the reason why people got so upset about kinect. Its functionality resembles the telescreens from the book to a staggering extent.

            “There are 1000 ways to spy on us or violate our privacy.”
            I don’t care about these other ways, at least not in the context of this article. Microsoft doesn’t control the surveilance cameras in the streets, except maybe a few in redmont. Government agencies and other companies do. But the government isn’t the only factor in the game. It isn’t really important here. Merely an example of a party that might be interested in information of all kinds.

            Believe me I’m not that big about conspiracy theories. But I have a pretty good idea of what is possible with information technology from university and work. And let me tell you, systems resembling kinect have been abused in the past and will be abused a whole lot more in the future. There is no way around it. The only thing we can do is raise awareness of the problem so that people know of the dangers and maybe even authorities will take steps to prosecute violations of the rights of customers.

            Downplaying things like these helps no one. Especially not yourself.

          • 1Wildgamerchild

            Not downplaying anything…we just can’t stop those things and must enjoy life anyway. If we cut out the ones guilty then we cut out everybody. If anything I support Xbox because they’re an American Company. And yes they manufacture overseas for cheaper labor but more of that money will come over here than Sony’s. I understand sometimes business comes before patriotism when dealing with wealth but I go for the home team. Both Sony and MS can get my money tho. I don’t care what I got to pay to play Uncharted, God Of War, Left 4 Dead, Gears Of War (even though the last one sucked but overall the series was good). Microsoft will in no way let themselves end up like the Dreamcast. They are the newest BIG brand of game consoles and most innovative with the most knowledge of computing with the most successful operating systems in history. Xbox is playing catch up with Sony very well. Nintendo is fading already. Microsoft having Xbox and Windows makes it hard for them to fail.

          • doc

            As before. Your main premise is off. This isn’t about Microsoft vs. Sony. This is a fundamental problem about how we react to having our rights violated by corporations. Potentially Sony could act just as bad or worse than Microsoft, it doesn’t matter.

            People should be indignated about how corporations treat our personal information. Instead, everytime a new case of information theft or misappropriation of customer data surfaces, everyone is just like “meh, again?”.
            We NEED to show them that we will not let our rights be violated and the only way to do so is not buying their products. Microsoft is huge, they can take the hit anyway.

            And don’t start with patriotism. Passivity on this subject only puts you on the side of the corporations, not just Microsoft, ALL corporations.

          • chris

            so far doc has come up with very valid arguments. You as of yet have to bring up any evidence to substantiate the you are all paranoid argument.

            While people are not saying that Microsoft is stealing information or that the kinect module will. They are simply being made aware that people should ALWAYS question authority. People by default will lie to save something precious. Microsoft is no exception, Just because they say they will not gather information does not mean they wont. Apparently being a huge monopolizing company like ms does not mean a thing.

  • ATG

    Kinect sounds great really, hell I’d love a Fight Night game that utilizes it properly and would buy an Xbox One for that purpose entirely. With the 360 though, I didn’t see anything that stood out.

    I plan on buying a PS4 on the month it launches, if the Xbox One has any exclusives or exclusive gameplay to Kinect then I may buy one in 2014-15. But with Kinect coming to PC in 2014, I might just pass entirely.

  • ATG

    What if the Xbox servers (or wherever the Kinect video-feed is stored) is hacked, or a specific Xbox is hacked, what’s to stop Microsoft or any hacker from spying on us? What happens to our privacy? It happens all the time with webcams.

    • 1Wildgamerchild

      Yeah I saw that on Dateline NBC. We’ll have to depend in Microsoft for security like we did with Sony and our accounts. If they fail we’ll hold them responsible and get our 2 free games to make up for it…old games (Little Planet and Infamous).

  • Jeff

    I don’t think Microsoft would spy on us, the notion is patently ludicrous. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose. If Microsoft was in charge I would feel perfectly safe. However, they are not. The US government’s request for private information from Google has risen %70 in the last few years. This is information that Congress has passed laws so they can get it WITHOUT a warrant. Imagine then, if they can read your email without your knowledge (and for no apparent National Security reason) why wouldn’t they ‘wire tap’ your Xbox. After all, you’re in a room with a camera and mic hooked up to the internet programmed to respond to key words. Why not have it listen for “Patriot”, “Tea Party” or other such key words.

    Our government would never do that though…

    • ATG

      I’m not too concerned with the government, seeing as how I won’t be conducting any illegal or terrorist-related activities.

      At least not in front of my Xbox…

      • Jeff

        The word “terrorist” isn’t legally defined. Since over 40 thousand new federal laws went into effect January 1st, you don’t know what laws you will be breaking or how they could define terrorism. The IRS just targeted people for their political beliefs, they raid Google on a daily basis, I’m not saying they will do it, but why give them the ability to?

        • doc

          Oh they will do it. Occasionally.
          They can always apologize afterwards.

      • doc

        Times change. In 30 years everything can happen. New security crises, government coups, World War III, rewritten constitiution. Thought crimes might be punishable with 20 years in jail by then.

        And your data will still be there, stored in some 1000000 petabyte cloud, that can be analised via intelligent algorithms to create a personality profile. Maybe your profile will show a 45% probability of insurrectionist thoughts because you mentioned 1984 once too often in front of the tv 20 years earlier.

        It’s all possible. It’s not even hard to imagine. It’s what I would o if I was a paranoid dictator.

  • moose

    i wonder if MS will change any of their announced features…

  • Todd

    Older article From Engadget…..

    Microsoft’s Dennis Durkin voiced an interesting idea at an investment summit last week — the idea that the company’s Kinect camera might pass data to advertisers about the way you look, play and speak. “We can cater what content gets presented to you based on who you are,” he told investors, suggesting that the Kinect offered business opportunities that weren’t possible “in a controller-based world.”

    And over time that will help us be more targeted about what content choices we present, what advertising we present, how we get better feedback. And data about how many people are in a room when an advertisement is shown, how many people are in a room when a game is being played, how are those people engaged with the game? How are they engaged with a sporting event? Are they standing up? Are they excited? Are they wearing Seahawks jerseys?
    Needless to say, sharing this level of photographic detail with advertisers presents some major privacy concerns

  • Bobbo The Clown

    I love(d) XBox. However, Microsoft has been doing an excellent job of selling the PS4 to me lately.

  • Taylor

    Americans lend me your ears (or eyes): there is this little document that everyone here seems to have forgotten about. It’s called the constitution. Added to it is a little document called the Bill of Rights. The right to reasonable privacy is included in this little piece of legislation. Now, hackers may hack and agencies may spy, but the minute, and I mean the MINUTE that a company like Microsoft or Apple or any government agency spies into the use of a device INSIDE the home that violates your reasonable right to privacy, the ACLU and other organizations will attack like white blood cells. The ignorance displayed here today is saddening. I understand your fears, but we have rights. More importantly we have great men and women who fight daily to keep those rights protected.

    • kearevaans

      We also have a government under fire for 4 scandals right now. Benghazi, the IRS, Americorps press, Fast and Furious. That’s not very hopeful.

  • Taylor

    If you’re still upset about this… don’t purchase a device that you’re uncomfortable using. *gasp* what a concept.

  • Stephen

    Why not just block the camera and mic when you don’t want to use it? Need it to log in? In block it for a second

    • doc

      And what if it’s needed for some important functions?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the did everything to make you not block it because it would be arduous.

  • Ryan

    Is this supposed to distract us from their terrible DRM with used games?

  • Androol

    I didn’t think the thing would even be capable of recording or transmitting anything when it’s not turned on, but that quote makes it sound like it does. I mean, I know it listens for “Xbox on,” but I would think that’d be entirely local, and the console’s internet connection, hard drive, RAM, etc., would be inoperative while it was turned off. This makes it sound like not only CAN they watch you at any time, they also kind of WANT to, hence the opt-in option… which could of course change to an opt-out option or a completely non-optional thing at some point down the road.

    I’m not one to worry about being spied on, and I was never gonna buy this console anyway, but this aspect of it is creepy nevertheless. And of course here we have yet another Microsoft representative trying to control some damage and causing me, if anything, to be even more dubious. They really must stop doing that.

  • Josh Calkins

    What a distrustful age we live in when video game consumers don’t want their words and actions constantly monitored, analyzed, and transmitted to large corporations. When will we learn that an Internet-connected Night vision camera we can’t control is just a natural part of being game players? Plus, if you aren’t a criminal then you shouldn’t care if there is a camera watching you at home, in the dark, with your friends and family. You’ve got nothing to hide, right? Do you want to play PAC Man or not?


    (Of course I am being absurd on purpose.)

    • Taylor

      Oh god… The Patriot Act argument.

    • chris

      you do realize that what you just said proves a clear cut violation of privacy. where does a company like Microsoft get off creating something like this that violates human RIGHTS. you see i say rights cause that’s what they are.

      you call gamers paranoid. NEVER EVER in the history of gaming has something like this been necessary. why all of a sudden Microsoft throws this out to the consumer that we as a community have no choice but to accept it or be called paranoid.

      why is the connect module needed AT all. they say that they will not use the module to spy on people. then don’t make it a necessity to play games.

  • Stilbon

    Not sure if anyone else is for this but I have decided to start using #NoKinect just to make a point in every comment I make about the Xbox One.

    This a massive disaster on Microsoft’s part and I don’t think they even realize it.

    It will hit them like a ton of brick when their console launches and sale are looking really good and then just flat-line because all the gamers concerned about their privacy bought a PS4.

  • Dawg23651

    Just wait till the words show up in the privacy policy such as “will not disclose personal information except where as required by LAW”

    what this means is if you commit a crime in your living room such as smoking pot and the police suspect you. then the police can monitor your actions if a warrant is exicuted.

    can you imagine if the information collected from your x box could be used against you in court?

    If facebook can already be used to bust people than this just blows the doors wide open on spy and survalience tactics. a persons basic rites are at stake here.

    I would completly stay away from the XBOX.