Xbox One Kinect could be impacted by proposed privacy bill

A proposed privacy bill requires increased consumer alerts for data collection, which could impact the way you interact with Xbox One's Kinect.

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Amid the controversies surrounding Xbox One's policies, one that has gotten slightly less attention are the privacy concerns regarding the new Kinect. If a newly proposed privacy bill becomes law, though, Microsoft may have to significantly change how you interact with the device.

Polygon reports that the "We Are Watching You Act," proposed by Congressmen Michael Cupuano (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), would require an explicit request every time a company wants to store a user's data, and identical service for those who refuse permission. Finally, the device would have to inform the user how the data is collected and who will see it.

Microsoft has previously assured users that the Kinect won't be recording or uploading information, which could let it dodge the implications of this law entirely. If the device is sending data to Microsoft, though, that would mean you would have to agree to an on-screen prompt every time you turn the console on. If you refused to let the Kinect send that data, Microsoft would have to offer identical service, without the data-collecting.

"These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy," Capuano wrote, regarding the proposal. "Given what we have recently learned about the access that the government has to the phone numbers we call, the emails we send and the websites we visit, it is important for consumers to decide for themselves whether they want this technology. Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers and your government."

Granted, this is only a bill for the time being, and many bills never make into full-fledged laws. It will be one to watch, though, as the Xbox One approaches launch.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 20, 2013 5:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Xbox One Kinect could be impacted by proposed privacy bill.

    A proposed privacy bill requires increased consumer alerts for data collection, which could impact the way you interact with Xbox One's Kinect.

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 5:22 PM

      MS: Put Bill Gates back in charge! Whoever's in charge right now is tanking your company!

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 3:53 AM

        I'd rather he do actual important work than heading a dumb IT company. He's still the chairman anyway.

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 8:04 AM

        How much influence did Bill Gates have on the original Xbox?

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 8:05 AM

          And the much more successful Xbox360?

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 7:59 PM

      I am seriously surprised that MS didn't realize there might be people concerned about their privacy with Kinect. Whether justified or not, it is a camera and motion detector placed in people's living rooms, bedrooms, offices, or whatever.

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        June 20, 2013 8:02 PM

        it can be forgiven, after all the kinect has been around for awhile and this never really came up. i understnd the difference but I can also see them looking at the wii and saying "thats how you market a gimmick control device, you have to pack it in" and figuring it was nbd

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 12:42 AM

          well there was no games that real gamers wanted to play with kinect. I know 1 person out of about 20 who have 360 who had a kinect and she played some dumbass river rafting game or something.... it was completely retarded it even displayed embarrassing photos of you after you were done a round...... No MS admin'ed microphones are going in my living room after that.

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 1:21 AM

            If there weren't any games you wanted to play with Kinect, what does that have to do with privacy concerns? They're two separate issues.

            • reply
              June 21, 2013 3:42 AM

              It's mandatory.

              It's not fun.

              Burns my tin hat.

              Costs 100 dollars I don't wish to spend.

              Separate issues that lead to the same conclusion.

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 3:38 AM

          It's mandatory. That's the problem. An ugly and intrusive device like that is fine while playing games, if they're fun. So far, I haven't seen a reason to buy one for 360.

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 10:37 AM

          The only people that ever had one though did so by choice, and they could always disconnect it when they weren't playing games that needed it.


          If MS at last made it so that the units came with the device, and would still operate without it connected (meaning that people could just hook it up when they wanted to play a game that used it if they wanted to), then you wouldn't have this problem. It'd just be a thing people could keep in their closet or whatever if they didn't like it but still use their console

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 8:46 PM

      Seriously shack, wtf has happened with the quality of reporting on this site? It's really gone downhill fast in the last few years.

      "Microsoft has previously assured users that the Kinect won't be recording or uploading information, which could let it dodge the implications of this law entirely. If the device is sending data to Microsoft, though, that would mean you would have to agree to an on-screen prompt every time you turn the console on. If you refused to let the Kinect send that data, Microsoft would have to offer identical service, without the data-collecting"

      So basically you're saying "While MS has made it clear this isn't the case in reality, let's pretend it is anyway so we can put sensationalist headlines out".

      • reply
        June 20, 2013 9:07 PM

        I assumed MS was affirming that the kinect isnt passively recording everything at all times. I wouldnt have been surprised to see the kinect sending anonymized data to improve game services

      • reply
        June 20, 2013 10:17 PM

        Microsoft Derangement Syndrome, that's what. When MS is behind something logic goes out the window and it gets blown up into something ridiculous.

        "OMG it's a camera in my living room! It must be recording my every move and sending it to Microsoft! Grr! I better complain online while sitting in front of my webcam, sending a bunch of posts that will all be filtered through the NSA servers. Maybe I'll go find a boycott group, using Google services that send my every move to advertisers! Or maybe I'll just go outside, where 90% of the time I will be on a surveillance camera, and protest this grave violation of my privacy!"

        In other words, I don't give a rat's ass about my privacy until Microsoft is involved, in which case I'll strap on my tin foil hat and make up fictional scenarios that would put a paranoid schizophrenic to shame, because Microsoft is eeeevil and the Xbone is eeeeevil.

        Also see: GRRR, Windows 8, they took away the Start Menu and no I don't care that it takes me all of 2 fucking minutes to replace it, they are building in features that cater to tablet users and that offends me because tablets are a silly fad and desktops rule so ME MAD ME MAD ME MAD!!!! These changes are too much for me to handle so I'm switching to Linux where EVERYTHING is different and foreign, but it's not MS so that's all cool!

        • reply
          June 20, 2013 10:35 PM

          [deleted]

        • reply
          June 20, 2013 11:19 PM

          Yeah, that's right on the button.

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 12:11 AM

            I'm just spitting into the wind with this though, Microsoft is doomed. Their brand is worth nothing, in fact it's worth less than nothing, it's a liability. I believe their products would be considerably more successful if only they were put out there by someone else.

            Xbox was the only cool brand they had and now it looks like that's gone, too. I don't know if I can quite say I feel "sorry" for a faceless corporate behemoth, but what I can say is I think their products are underrated lately.

            I'm not saying they are blameless in this, there are reasons their brand sucks, and they are very overconfident, they seem to just assume that people will see the value in their products without them putting forth any real effort to actually communicate the benefits. They way overestimate the ease with which their customers will accept or adapt to change.

            Maybe it's an overreaction on their part, they've spent so long being perceived as slow to change and always behind the curve, so now they're moving so fast and with such blind confidence that they're scaring people away. Whatever they're doing, it isn't working if this is the kind of reaction they're getting.

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 12:36 AM

          If you can't grasp why the average person might be somewhat perturbed by being forced to have an always on video camera pointed at them in their living room then you're just being obtuse.

          Peoples fears and paranoias aren't logic based, fear is an emotional response. There is already a well established history and narrative to the idea that having a camera pointed in your face is an invasion of privacy. Webcams on laptops and mobile phones are less threatening because most of us put these devices away when we're finished with them, or close them or throw them in our bag / pockets. This might not really be a secure solution but it deals with the fear or paranoia of being observed.

          People arn't bothered about the kinnect because its MS, its because its a dumb idea that MS should have realised would have provoked this response. They haven't made things easier for themselves because they've fucked up so much recently that the media is scrutinising every step they make, so these issues are being blown out of proportion.

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 1:05 AM

            Sure, I can grasp what the average person thinks and fears, but then again the "average person" is dead fucking wrong about a great many things. I'm talking about reality here. If people are detached from reality then that's a problem that should be corrected, not something for informed people to have to humor as legitimate.

            http://www.shacknews.com/article/79543/xbox-one-kinect-privacy-tools-detailed
            http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/privacy

            Yeah, I can hear you now: "But what if that's a bunch of dirty lies and Microsoft really is sending a live feed of my living room to their servers at all times?"

            Okay, what if? What if the government did 9/11? What if the moon landing was just a hoax? What if the Earth is secretly ruled by a cabal of shape-shifting reptiles? Do we really KNOW these things? Do we common people really have the information or expertise to verify these things first hand?

            No, we don't. We don't know these things. I have no idea if not having aluminum foil on my head means the government can read my thoughts. I doubt it, but I suppose it's possible. I certainly can't prove that it isn't. But these are the kind of uncertainties we have to live with if we want to lead a healthy life.

            And no, these kind of concerns aren't all irrational. Conspiracies have happened. Our privacy is being constricted in any number of serious ways every single day. But if you object to that I suggest you get out there and agitate against the many privacy intrusions that are known to be real rather than wringing your hands about hypothetical ones.

            • reply
              June 21, 2013 1:49 AM

              Uh you're not getting it at all. I'm not saying MS is secretly filming their customers or anything underhand like that, i'm not even saying the average customer thinks they are doing those things.

              What I am saying is that MS are stupid for not realising that a camera pointed at people 24/7 will make a huge number of people uncomfortable, whether those same people really believe there is something underhand going on or not doesn't matter, its an emotional response that nearly everyone has when a camera is pointing at them.

              Who cares if customers are right or wrong? I dont give a fuck, but microsoft certainly fucking should if they're trying to get people to pay $500 for the privilege.

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 1:56 AM

                I don't think the number of people made uncomfortable by this would be huge. Vocal, certainly. But a definite minority.

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 9:56 AM

                Everyone with an iPhone has a camera pointed at them FYI , no rage

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 2:58 AM

            The average person and much more than that seeing the number of distopyan books published in the 20th century.
            I would guess that we're nearing a point where we'll have to make a societal choice. For exemple Google is expanding its users data for commercial use through apps, search, android phones to the point where it becomes worrying to some.

      • reply
        June 20, 2013 10:32 PM

        It would have been bad journalism if the editor said: "ok, thanks for your response Microsoft. I guess all is well now that you promised it."

        • reply
          June 20, 2013 10:50 PM

          Don't be silly. There's no reason to expect MS is secretly sending your data to their servers against their expressed policy. So to write a big article with a sensationalist headline on that assumption is retarded, and it certainly isn't journalism.

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 6:04 AM

            Actually, there is reason to suspect MS may secretly send your data to their--or someone else's--server. The leaked information about Prism indicates it's already happening. And then there's also this:

            U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of Firms
            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-14/u-s-agencies-said-to-swap-data-with-thousands-of-firms.html

            MS is specifically implicated in this one.

            So it's perfectly rational to believe MS could say one thing here, but be doing another.

            • reply
              June 21, 2013 8:08 AM

              The government snoops on basically everything with impunity, if you haven't figured that out by now with the last few years of leaks about secret programs, you haven't been paying attention.

              If you think not buying the Xbone is going to protect you from the government's snooping you are mistaken. I guess you could make the argument that it's one less potential vector, but that's like saying a sieve makes a better bucket because you plugged up just one of the holes.

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 9:18 AM

                If you know the "the government snoops on basically everything with impunity" why would you help them further buy putting a camera and microphone in your room? Wouldn't it be better to fight back rather than screw yourself further by buying a Xbox One?

                Besides, in the case of Kinect it's not so much the government I'm worried about but Microsoft. Do a search for something like "Microsoft Kinect patent" and you'll find lots of articles discussing Microsoft's patent which will monitor everyone in the room for DRM purposes. Here's one:

                http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/the-extent-of-kinect-2-s-visual-drm-is-beginning-to-emerge/0116138

                That patent is exactly what the We Are Watching You Act is trying to stop. You've been defending Microsoft through this thread saying they don't intent to track users, but that patent shows that's exactly what they intend to do.

                If Microsoft allows you to unplug Kinect when you're not using it I'd say it wasn't a problem. The problem is their requirement to have Kinect always plugged in and configured. This requirement in no way benefits the consumer, but it does benefit Microsoft because it opens the door for DRM schemes like the one discussed in Microsoft's patent. It is therefore in the interests of consumers to reject the Xbox One until the Kinect requirement is removed.

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 9:42 AM

                This is literally the dumbest post I've ever read on shacknews. Congratulations! You win the prize!

            • reply
              June 21, 2013 9:33 AM

              what possible useful information could MS get out of snooping on xbone users? that they're terrible dancers? I dont get this line of reasoning as it makes no sense

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 9:37 AM

                A list of who is at the house (based on facial recognition)
                Their current heartrate and expression of anyone in the room
                The direction they are facing (useful if you're doing a home invasion)
                The most frequent time you are home
                The number of people living at the home
                How frequently visitors come

                etc

                • reply
                  June 21, 2013 9:39 AM

                  For microsoft:
                  What ads you watch
                  Which ads you skip / avoid
                  TV shows you watch
                  How frequently you change the channel
                  Your program level (cable package)
                  Your interest in commercials (based on expression / heartrate)
                  How many people you share content with

                  BTW, all of this data Microsoft already collects in-aggregate and sells to publishers. It's in the EULA.

                • reply
                  June 21, 2013 9:43 AM

                  and this is useful to MS/NSA/CIA/KGB/Mossad/Savak how?


                  if it's just MS they could never publish their finding or risk getting sued up the wazoo.

                  also are you saying that local police could dial into MS' braintrust and check to see if anyone's playing Kinect right before they storm in guns ablazing? this is a little ridiculous. they'll literally be on the phone with customer support

                  "yes we have 3 perps. two obese guys and their mother playing Dance Off 5. they should be no problem as the fat guys are winded after 10 seconds of dancing"

                  • reply
                    June 21, 2013 9:48 AM

                    What is the allowable limit of survelliance for you? Bear in mind that it may be different for others.
                    But by your reasoning, the always-watching tv in 1984 was no big deal -- I mean, what could they see, that you're home? Have fun with that info, Big Brother (more like Big Bother amirite)

                    Some people think neither corporations nor governments have any right to watch us or gather info about every person, no matter how obstensibly innocuous. Others trust corporations and governments' benign intentions much more, I suppose.

                    • reply
                      June 21, 2013 9:52 AM

                      "But by your reasoning, the always-watching tv in 1984 was no big deal"

                      ............. 1984 is a work of fiction

                      pretty much every single laptop made has a webcam built right in. why isnt that a far bigger issue? I mean what can MS see that Dell or Apple or Compaq or whatever hasnt already seen?

                      • reply
                        June 21, 2013 9:54 AM

                        Because you can disable webcams, but can't disable Kinect?

                        • reply
                          June 21, 2013 9:58 AM

                          You can disable the kinect sensor according to the Xbox FAQ, unless the game requires it. Just FYI.

                          • reply
                            June 21, 2013 9:58 AM

                            Ah, wasn't aware

                          • reply
                            June 21, 2013 10:15 AM

                            and yet it still has to be plugged in?

                            • reply
                              June 21, 2013 10:29 AM

                              Yes, it will have to be connected to the One at all times (so far). We haven't heard otherwise yet.

                              • reply
                                June 21, 2013 3:19 PM

                                which makes me skeptical of the user's ability to disable the device. doesn't make sense

                                • reply
                                  June 22, 2013 10:57 AM

                                  It makes sense. They don't want you to leave it in the box. They want developers to be able to count on every Xbone owner having one, that's why they bundled it.

                                  It would be a waste to give people the thing if they leave it in the box.

                                  • reply
                                    June 22, 2013 11:32 AM

                                    Giving developers the security to develop a game that utilizes the kinect doesn't mean that the user is guaranteed a compelling reason to have it plugged in. There is no reason it shouldn't be optional. If developers make something worthwhile, people will pull it out of the box and plug it in. Why do they have to force people to use it if it's supposed to be a compelling feature of the console on its own merit and with the UI implementation as well?

                        • reply
                          June 21, 2013 10:21 AM

                          ? have you ever seen a Kinect IRL? cuz it's far easier to unplug a usb cable than it is turn off your cam.

              • reply
                June 21, 2013 9:39 AM

                Cause you don't think like a marketer. Remember that the XBone ties into your cable service. So, just off the top of my head:

                - how many people are in front of the tv during television show X
                - what percentage of commercials are watched / missed due to channel browsing / missed due to bathroom breaks etc
                - how much 'engagement' the user has with programming (we've seen the new kinect sensor can tell if you're watching the screen, talking to others, etc)

                I'm sure there's more scenarios I'm not thinking of. That kind of data is a marketer's wet dream.

                • reply
                  June 21, 2013 9:44 AM

                  and that's not an invasion of privacy? wouldnt they have to include this sort of thing in some sort of legal disclaimer and wouldnt it be found out sooner or later?

                  • reply
                    June 21, 2013 9:50 AM

                    Per LoioshDwaggie it's already in the EULA.
                    But, to directly answer you, does it say anywhere in your user agreement with your mobile company that your metadata may be collected and given to government agencies even without a warrant? Cause that actually happened.

                    Or to put it yet another way: What has the government done to earn this kind of implicit trust you are willing to grant them? Cause I can give you dozens of examples of how they've earned my DIStrust, but few as to how they've earned my trust.

                    • reply
                      June 21, 2013 9:54 AM

                      so that means they must be sharing info with the guys in the black helicoptors. you make it sound liek you're worth spying on when you are not

                      • reply
                        June 21, 2013 9:56 AM

                        Did you really just pull out the "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide" card?

                        BTW, can I ship you some webcams for your house and have you wire them up to a server so I can watch you at all times? Serious question, I'll pay for the webcams and the server. You shouldn't have an issue with this -- I promise not to do anything harmful with the data and if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.

                        • reply
                          June 21, 2013 9:58 AM

                          Or do you lack the courage of your convictions?

                        • reply
                          June 21, 2013 10:20 AM

                          " "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide" card? "

                          no. you are imagining things

                          I'm sure someone out there could do lots of things I may or may not have a problem with. doesnt mean they are. millions of webcam enabled laptops with far more valuable information would be the bigger fish to fry. why are laptop manufacturers immune to accusations of spying but MS isnt?

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 9:43 AM

            Of course there is. The same way that they claimed that your privacy was safe on skype when, in fact, it very much wasn't.

        • reply
          June 20, 2013 10:55 PM

          oh so we're reading into and speculating on every official statement now?

          so the PS Eye is reporting directly to the NSA? they haven't denied it.

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 12:26 AM

            Just like there was no reason to believe Facebook, Apple or Google were sending data to the NSA, right?

        • reply
          June 20, 2013 11:05 PM

          Where does that end, though? Is it journalism to say something may be true after it's been explicitly refuted without actually providing any evidence that they're lying?

          If you put out an article saying "Obama may secretly be a Muslim, however, the president denies the claim. We will continue to keep you posted as the Obama-Muslim controversy develops", is that journalism? Or is that fear-mongering?

          • reply
            June 21, 2013 12:30 AM

            I think it's good to ask question about this always-on camera. It's something new, in your living room/bed room and there for easy to abuse. If Microsoft can make clear that there really is no need for people to worry about their privacy, that's great. But as for now, with the current events in mind, the odds are against them.

            • reply
              June 21, 2013 1:16 AM

              But it's not new. It's already fact. And what has happened?

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Sales

              "24 million units of the Kinect sensor had been shipped by February 2013. Having sold 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market, Kinect has claimed the Guinness World Record of being the "fastest selling consumer electronics device". According to Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, Kinect bundles accounted for about half of all Xbox 360 console sales in December 2010 and for more than two-thirds in February 2011. More than 750,000 Kinect units were sold during the week of Black Friday 2011."

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 4:45 AM

          That is where you dig deeper to find out if they are lying, not just say "What if they are?!?"

      • reply
        June 20, 2013 11:21 PM

        Actually I'm pretty sure Microsoft said the Kinect wouldn't send any data without your explicit permission. Which to me is perfectly acceptable, but the question is if you consent to the transmission will this bill still require the device to ask you if you still consent after every bootup. Not sure what I think about that.

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 2:44 AM

        uncleanmonkey, we still have people who think that the kinect is going to transport HD video of them at all times back to Microsoft. If people are so uneducated they think this is just going to magically happen, what the fuck do you expect? The entire Internet is in dire need of opening a fucking book every once in a while.

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 4:01 AM

        While I don't agree with you 100% here, I can see no way to write this article that doesn't make you have to assume a bunch of things. In my mind, this article just shouldn't have been published because it's predicated on not only one hypothetical, but two unknowns: 1) proposed privacy bill 2) MS sending data or not. There's no law yet. There's not even a console out yet. The article is basically completely worthless.

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 9:11 PM

      This is not the first government scrutiny of the Kinect:

      Australia: http://www.cinemablend.com/games/-Xbox-One-Kinect-Surveillance-Device-Says-Australia-Civil-Liberty-Director-56126.html

      Germany: http://www.joystiq.com/2013/05/28/xbox-one-kinect-is-a-monitoring-device-german-data-commission/

      I'm also glad that the authors of the bill drew the association to the telescreen from 1984, judging from the title. http://www.shacknews.com/article/77782/report-next-xbox-requires-always-on-kinect?id=29672968

      The part about the product having to offer identical service without the data collection is brilliant; we need strong anti-clickwrap, anti-disclaimerware clauses like these to combat some of the silliness in technology licensing today.

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 10:59 PM

      So rather than making it illegal for the government to spy on us, they just decide to make it a bit harder. Thanks Mr Congressman.

    • reply
      June 20, 2013 11:33 PM

      In MS defense, I thought everyone knew the gov was monitoring all communications since the 80's. Echelon anyone?

    • reply
      June 21, 2013 12:17 AM

      This is link bait. Terrible headline and article.

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 6:14 AM

        Should of added SHITCOCK to the end.

      • reply
        June 21, 2013 8:59 AM

        I don't find that strip fair at all. There were benefits to Microsoft's original plan, but the public said "we'd rather have things the old way", and Microsoft listened. They thought they could sell the public on their way, and they thought wrong, so they backed off.

        There's no sinister evil conspiracy. It frustrates me to see people holding childish grudges over abandoned plans, or celebrating Sony dominance like that's a GOOD thing for consumers. Don't they remember how arrogant Sony was after riding the success of the PS2? Don't they see how the Xbox team got similarly overconfident after the success of the 360? Sure, Sony's the hero now, but when they have the whole video game market sewn up in their pocket that niceness isn't going to last long.

        Look, I do understand preferring the PS4. Even with the reversal, the Xbone is a hard sell to many, at $100 more for less powerful hardware and questionable indie support. And I've always maintained that Sony has the better exclusives.

        The evil camera thing is such bullshit though. The new Kinect is really impressive, those who don't realize that are those whose minds are closed to motion control to begin with, so they don't care how cool it is. The demonizing of the Kinect is just a real shame to those who have seen what it can do.

        • reply
          June 21, 2013 9:35 AM

          put one in every box. make it optional for operation. oh wait, we can't do that.

    • reply
      June 21, 2013 6:38 AM

      This is the key reason why I would never buy the Xbox one in its current form. Honestly having an advanced camera like this in your living room that is mandatory is a deal breaker for me. Same w my wife

      It's different if its a peripheral that is optional and can be unplugged, like a webcam or microphone.

    • reply
      June 21, 2013 10:27 AM

      I'm using a phone right now with 2 cameras and mic that is connected to the internet. meh. don't really have a problem with Kinect.

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