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Concerns raised over the prying eyes of Xbox One's Kinect
Concerns raised over the prying eyes of Xbox One's Kinect
May 28, 2013 | By Mike Rose




It seems that the Xbox One can't catch a break. While rumors about the console's preowned game business model are threatening Microsoft's reputation, and the decision to require a regular connection to the internet hasn't exactly proved popular, there are new concerns over the Kinect camera.

Microsoft has said that the Kinect hardware will not be mandatory for all Xbox One games -- however, you will need to have the camera plugged in at all times for the console to function.

Now Germany's federal commissioner for data protection and freedom of information Peter Schaar has raised concerns over the hardware, questioning the level of privacy that Xbox One users will be granted.

He told German news website Spiegel Online that he is worried about the level of information that the Kinect is processing based on player actions, and questioned where this information will be stored, and whether it will be given to third parties.

"The fact that Microsoft could potentially spy on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare," he said.

Elsewhere, Civil Liberties Australia's director Tim Vines told Ninemsn that the situation may be even more serious in Australia.

"Microsoft's new Xbox meets the definition of a surveillance device under some Australian laws," he said, "so they need to be upfront and tell customers whether anyone else can intercept their information or remotely access their device."

"People should have the ability to turn off the camera or microphone, even if it limits the functionality of the machine," he added. "Of course, if Microsoft doesn't allow that, then people should vote with their wallets and skip the next Xbox."

However, Microsoft has said previously that it takes privacy on the Xbox One seriously, with Phil Harrison stating, "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."


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Comments


Ramin Shokrizade
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This still begs the question: Can a 3rd party (including a sovereign entity) use the device to transmit information without the knowledge of the consumer or Microsoft? The Kinect is very powerful, and can measure more things than a camera can.

Jean Auguste
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Nancy Tellem, former president of CBS and now head digital media at Microsoft, was by far the most important person on stage during the XBox One reveal and she might even have had an orgasm just thinking about what Microsoft intends to achieve.

You have to relate everything they said with the presence of Kinect and the fact it has to be always on and the fact that the console has to be always connected. The main purpose of this is DATA : Kinect scans faces/living rooms/behaviours or the programs you watch or the people you chat with on Skype, all of that will bring data.

And that's how they want to make their money from, the same way as Facebook, the same way as Google.

If they sell 10 or 20 millions less Xbox One than any of their competitors (Apple TV or Ps4), it's not the way they'll measure success or fail. It's about how meaningful the data they pull out can be : Tv ratings more precise than ever, what ads really catch up your attention, how many persons are in the room, male/female, can we identify the unknown person that is with you in the room based on your recent Skype communications, are you single, kids around, etc ?

This is where they want to be 10 years from now and that's why gaming is less relevant today for them except for AAA franchises and surprise hits.

David Paris
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I think you are bang on with this one. The advertising potential for this alone is huge, and there are so many other applications for that kind of detailed profiling. This is absolutely a large step on a path we do not wish to tread upon.

A W
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Completely correct. One thing ratings systems are flawed at is having an actual head count of who's watching what or doing what at what time. With Xbox One's connect system and the point of trying to become the all-in-one living room device, they can put faces, numbers of people, and genders to the amount of uses an app, game, TV show and ad gets watched, they can also put a expression to it as well.

I remember the NFL making a claim back during the Superbowl this year that if you had certain size HD TV and where charging people to come to your house to watch the Superbowl, they should be able to legally sue because it would be like you making money off of actually selling front row acsess at the game using their branding. It sounded laughable at best, but with this tech it could become a reality.

Who knows what type of checks the Xbox one will be able to make on a consumer and how it will send that information back to the cloud services for extrapolation, but it seems like a lot of those "Big Brother 80 flicks" was right about big business and the future. What problematic to me is Microsoft not getting out in front to address these issues. I mean is this about protecting the publishers, or about making money off of real time data surveillance. It starting to see like a bit of both with one paying off big if the get a good user base.

Aaron Eastburn
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I think this patent revealed last year shows the direction they might be looking to take with it:
http://kotaku.com/5958307/this-kinect-patent-is-terrifying-wants-
to-charge-you-for-license-violation

This way they can "more accurately asses" those who are viewing content and charge accordingly.

Luis Guimaraes
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That's why they want all your TV, Sports and Music consumption to check-in with the console.

The camera knows how you're reacting and who's there, the console knows what you're watch and the obligatory Internet connection uploads the data.

That's not counting military-level spionage.

Michael Joseph
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"Tv ratings more precise than ever"
--
Networks don't care about precise TV ratings. Precise enough ratings already exist because cable and sat companies know what people are tuning into. But precise ratings are irrelevant. TV ratings are a fraud. They are more about trying to tell you what to watch (and in so doing what to think, what to buy) than they are about informing networks what their audiences prefer watching.

Ratings don't matter and they don't matter because for networks their first priority has nothing to do with serving their audiences. Their first priority is serving industry and that's the logical conclusion to a situation where giant corporations like General Electric can own media businesses.

What else could we expect?

Wylie Garvin
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I think perhaps you misunderstand what TV ratings are for. The higher rated a show is, the more they can charge advertisers for a commercial slot during that show. Thats all its for. They compete amongst themselves to have the shows with the best ratings, because that translates directly into advertising dollars.

Michael Joseph
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I know what the ratings system say they are about, but I'm calling BS on it. They are completely illegitimate and if you believe in them well I've got a bridge I can sell you.

Let me ask you this, why are Nielsen ratings used and why do advertisers accept this arrangement when there are pretty darn precise ratings data available directly from cable and sat operators that include DVR usage.

It's 100 million households (granted a smaller but still very high number are using cable or sat as opposed to rabbit ears) versus 25,000?

Nielsen claims to take into account how many people in a household are watching a show but they still have a horrible sample size and serious demographic issues and I would submit that using proper cable and sat data you could compute much more accurately how many people are watching what based on the fact that most homes have multiple TVs and looking at the statistics of when various TVs are on, what they are watching, and comparing those to when only one TV is on and a show like Idol is on. Anyway, smarter people than I using very precise cable/sat operator data will beat the ridiculous Nielsen data collection/invention scheme.

They are a fraud. I remember reading somewhere that before Nielsen stopped reporting ratings in regions after major power outages, there were nonsensical results of viewers watching shows that they couldn't possibly have watched given they were without power the entire evening.

The Nielsen rating system is... FISHY. I mean.... seriously FISHY. It's mind boggling absurd really in this day and age they are still telling the world what is and is not popular.

And it begs the question, why do advertisers go along with this charade?

If you're an advertiser paying based on viewership, why on earth would you trust Nielsen ratings? You'd have to be mad. If you're the creator of a brand new show, how comfortable will you feel knowing you're at the mercy of the Neilsen who effectively have the power to take your show off the air and with no ability to verify their data?

So, I know what the ratings are supposed to be for. But in my mind at least, their system seems uninterested in providing the most accurate results. And if that is true, then you invariably come to the conclusion that ratings don't matter. Which is to say, I don't believe they really are competing for advertising dollars. Ratings data made available to the public are a pretense. Ratings system is only absurd if you believe it's legitimate... otherwise it makes perfect sense.

Michael Joseph
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The other thing to look at would be SEC filings and the reported advertising revenues for ABC, NBC, and CBS.

ABC is owned by Disney that had ~42 billion in revenue last year.
NBC is owned by Comcast that had ~62 billion in revenue last year.
CBS is owned by CBS Corporation and had ~14 billion in revenue last year.
FOX is owned by News Corps and had ~34 billion in revenue last year.

However it seems to me, when isolating just their main stations (at least for ABC,NBC and CBS) they are all bringing in roughly the same amount of ad revenue +/- a few hundred million dollars which is less than 1 percent of total revenue for their respective parent corporations. And even the lowest rated network is still profitable and they are never going to lose their network due to lack of consumer demand. So rather than fight for less than 1% of revenue difference, they're all better off using their networks for standard vertical integrated marketing promoting their films and actors and musicians and products and politicians, and attitudes and beliefs 24/7.

If anyone really cares to do the research, check the annual ad revenues year over year for the past 10 years and see how it compares to ratings for each during those years. My guess is there is very little correlation and little difference in ad revenue when comparing each of their main broadcast channels. Seems to me they are each pulling in within a few hundred million dollars of each other ad revenue for their main broadcast channels a difference of which is a drop in the bucket of total corporate revenue.

This even produces a disincentive to creative good shows with high production values. Even if you get better ratings it's going to be offset by the higher production costs and for what? Less ability to do product placement and cross promotions?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_broadcasters

They even take turns hosting the Super Bowl. Now this doesn't necessarily have to be evidence of a racket, it could be that the NFL wants to stay friendly with every network out of the goodness of it's heart... lol. (or maybe the FCC stepped in to take the blame... dunno, don't care.)

Morgan Schouler
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I start thinking I am the only one on earth who read and understand correctly what MS's people say after this hell of a week.

> You can't unplug physically Kinect, but you CAN disable its fonctions!

Microsoft's Jeff Henshaw: If you want privacy, we'll give you modes that ensure your privacy. And we actually have a little bit about this on the Web already. 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.

Morgan Schouler
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Also, for the paranoids there is still a really simple solution:

http://imageserver.grainger.com/is/image/Grainger/6NUR5_AS01?$pro
ductdetail$

Adam Bishop
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Unless the private modes:

a) are turned on by default
b) are clearly and simply explained to consumers
c) provide actual privacy

it isn't going to matter. Microsoft doesn't care if 5% of the audience uses privacy tools if 95% of the audience doesn't even know about them. It's the same way that social networks like Facebook manage to significantly erode privacy by making the system obtuse and defaulting to making things open; unless you're the kind of person who is deliberately focussed on learning how your privacy is affected, the system is designed to make it easy to spy on you.

Jonathan Gilmore
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In this instance grandstating politicians are your friend, because they will get enough attention that MS will have to be more upfront about the privacy settings, and make them more functional. I admit this is a real concern, from the marketing/personal information side and general concerns with privacy.

Ian Snyder
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It's sad that people think it's paranoid to have an advanced surveillance device in your home that is controlled by a corporation like Microsoft. You're all in the game industry, so you think "just put duct tape on it if it's scary to you" or there are options to disable it, but by default it is monitoring your living space. For parents that think they're just buying another gadget for their kids, or the average consumer, they're inviting Big Brother into their homes without being aware of it. I think Jean Auguste really hit the nail on the head.

Michael Joseph
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you can trust big business (you know, the people who write the laws and fund the election shows). it's only the govt you have to worry about.

A W
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You can't fully trust either Michael and its what keep democracy as democracy.

Morgan Schouler
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"For parents that think they're just buying another gadget for their kids, or the average consumer."

Are you stating that most of people who can buy this kind of devices are dumb or haven't lived with the rest of the world for the last 20 years to not being aware of the deviousness of all modern devices?

Knowledge and awareness of intrusive tech are not reserved to tech people, and it's all but something new.

Dave Bellinger
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@Morgan

Yes, that's exactly what he's saying, and it is unfortunately much more true than you think. It's not easy to realize that most people take this tech at face value, ESPECIALLY when you work in an industry that is populated with people familiar with it; this gives you the perception that then general populace has at least a reasonable understand. It's not true, and that's the nature of tech in society.

There's a reason we still put warning labels on hair dryers.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Just about every computer has a camera on t that can be hacked and used to spy, and personal information is freely collected and sold to other parties. Maybe these privacy concerns will help people to wake up to the amount of surveillance they are under as a a matter of course. People post semi nude pictures of themselves on Facebook for crissakes.

William Barnes
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@Morgan.

People have already shown themselves as to be ignorant. Willfully in some cases. Sometimes willfully just because they won't know what to do if they do know (if they care), or willfully because someone else in not so many words has suggested they remain that way on a subject and they obey. I could bring up examples, but they would tend to be political.

William Barnes
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They tell us scary black guns need to be banned before they jump up and kill us all of their own free will. They tell us violent games create monsters who hide behind a tool (i.e. the scary black gun) They tell us surrender your rights, we'll take good care of you... oh by the way... we need to install more surveillance satellites, drones, and cameras all for your safety.

Microsoft is now telling us, no Kinnect camera connected? We'll brick your system until you reconnect it. If our new console misses its check-in, it will stop working (brick? mandate more money for the games you already purchased to play? how?) Why?

The simplest possibility as they present it, our convenience. The more likely reason is data mining at an even more personal level.... later, who knows... potentials even include monitoring you for a police/nanny state for violations.

One rumor (maybe not a rumor?) is that they will monitor how many people are in the room watching a movie and report back to the MPAA. If too many people are watching, you get a bill/fine for "public viewing." (Not too far off the NFL comment)

We'll know more if we blind the camera(s) on the Kinnect and an update is later issued that requires the camera to be able to see the room.

Adam Bishop
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How secure is the Kinect against the kind of hacking that's done to PC webcams?

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/rat-breeders-meet-the-
men-who-spy-on-women-through-their-webcams/

Ardney Carter
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This is more or less the 1st thing that came to my mind during their reveal when they made the info about always on Kinect public.

Being worried about what the corporation will do with this surveillance equipment is natural. But even if you could be reasonably assured that they would never abuse it there is no reason to assume that the system can't be abused by 3rd parties. Just ask Sony how secure video game networks are from 3rd party intrusion...


Sebastian Kurscheid
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Good question. I can imagine that overcoming the hypervisor will pose a serious challenge to any hacker, but as we all know there are no 100% secure systems. And once you have control over the hypervisor you have access to an OS which is essentially Windows 8 so you can draw on probably millions of lines of malicious code which already exist for that eco system.

Can't wait for some security firm reporting about the first Xbox One bot net...

Jannis Froese
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Yes, it is a challenge for any hacker. That is exactly why it will be done within a couple days after release. There are always lots of hackers who are doing is just for the challenge. Then there are those who write trojans to watch women in front of their cameras. And then there are countries whose statesman read 1984 and liked its idea of televisions with always-on cameras.

Terry Matthes
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Probably makes families nervous especially ones with kids. Taking photo, video or audio clips of children not authorized by parents... or at all seems very very intrusive and unsettling to me.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Those people probably have computers with cameras in their children's bedrooms. Its a general problem, but somehow it is super alarming because its a Kinect?

Terry Matthes
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No.. no those people don't for the same reason.

Jonathan Gilmore
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People with kids don't have computers with cameras or cell phones with cameras? News to me.

Kyle Redd
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All this and not a single game "journalist" has bothered to ask Microsoft WHY the Kinect is required for the system to operate. If games will work without it, then why the hell can't I just leave it in the closet?

Michael Joseph
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Everyone already knows the answer to such a question. And the official answer wont look anything like it.


some folks are going to come up with a nice hardware hack to install a hard switch to enable/disable the mic and camera and still allow games to be played.

Kyle Redd
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So? Then at least Microsoft will have to give their official B.S. answer on the record. Some minor semblance of accountability is better than none at all.

Adam Rebika
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" 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."
As in you opt into that in the user's agreement that everyone signs without reading?

Amir Ebrahimi
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Agreed. Why is it even an option to "opt in"? What is Microsoft looking to gain by tracking your body movements, your living room, etc.?

Maurício Gomes
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So, if you CAN opt in to transmit your data, what prevents a intruder from using that system as a backdoor and stealing your data? (or someone from sitting in your couch and opting in for you)

Jed Hubic
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It seems like the best work around for concerned people is to not buy it.

Discuss.

...endlessly.

Glenn Sturgeon
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Are there any positive factors involved with the XB1? Well positive beyond, i'm pretty much positive i wont buy into thier system. I very seldom ever have my consoles online, specialy XB & if i had a XB1 i wouldn't want to use kinect. Xbox is worthless to have online unless you have a gold account & i'm nowhere near intrested in paying them for what they offer. Unless they get a few must have exclusive from some of my favorite developers they will not see any money from me. I supported the XB & it was junk (300 hrs of play & the disc drive failed), I supported the 360 and it was a much worse piece of junk (200 Hrs & got RROD). Fool me once, well what can i say, fool me twice, i can say goodbye.

Merc Hoffner
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Can anyone answer, from a technical perspective, if the PS4 and Xbox One are/aren't less secure than traditional console generations because they now run on x86? 30 years of hacking experience and tools have been built for these platforms (and in particular for Windows - which I suppose Xbox One has a variant of) - does that make a difference? Or is it completely meaningless with bespoke OS's, customized processors, closed software/Romspace and dedicated security hardware? The original Xbox was a PC and was cracked wide open. Does it follow that the new machines will be too?

Wylie Garvin
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The change to x86 probably does not matter security-wise. The new consoles will probably have software and hardware security features similar to what the previous gen had (code signing, secure bootloaders, etc.) Tools built for Windows will be useless, hackers will definitely have to build their hacks specifically for these target platforms, which will be running completely custom system software from the console vendors. But that has never stopped them before.

The overall attack surface will be larger, as these consoles have more memory and will have more complex system software with more features than any previous gen consoles had. But the console vendors have also surely learned from their experiences with the previous gen. Cracking the console security means piracy, so publishers hate that. A secure platform is one of the big selling points MS/Sony can offer to the publishers, so they have a financial incentive to make the security as solid as they can. My totally uninformed prediction is that this gen will be very difficult for the hackers to crack.

William Barnes
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@Wylie

They keep saying that about DRM and other anti-piracy bloat.... The pirates usually break that quickly. The PS3 has been hacked as well as the XB360. The PS3 had security codes leaked. No amount of security is infallible. Most isn't worth the price of admission.

Sebastian Kurscheid
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@Wylie according to all the available info the Xbox One is supposedly running three OSs concurrently, see e.g. here:

http://technorati.com/entertainment/gaming/article/microsofts-new
-xbox-one-game-console/

One of these is Windows 8 based, and it seems that at least "Metro" apps are easily portable.

So I guess the main challenge would be hacking the hypervisor, but once that has been achieved you could run essentially any "Metro"-compatible code in the Windows 8 partition...

Jannis Froese
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Microsoft will no doubt try to prevent hacking as long as possible. However they said they run the Windows Kernel, which is developed and known to sophisticated hackers since Windows NT (early 90s). No doubt this will jumpstart development at many attack vectors.

Also the Processors seem to be pretty normal AMD processors on the CPU side, so many hackers are familiar with them, which lowers the barrier of entry.

Kujel s
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So long as I can turn off all monitoring functions and other such BS I'm not to concerned. I'm not planning on any presidential assassinations (or equally brazen endevers) so I'm not to worried about them remotely switching said funtions back on. If I was really worried about big brother monitoring me I wouldn't carry a smartphone on me, hell I would live in a shack in the middle of no where without phone or internet, but I'm not worried and as long as those of us who care about this issue all that much just turn said functions off we'll be okay.

William Barnes
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AND so long as said switches actually do as described turn off and on the monitoring functions instead of give us a false sense of privacy by always being on.

John Flush
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Why can't you just turn Kinect to point at the wall? Why not put tape over the microphone? Oh yeah, because thinking is hard. The better way though is to not buy it. that is the path I'm taking.

John Flush
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But when a workaround is so damn dumb, it is hard to think of people being this thick. Yeah, it was designed to not need either one of those, so now we get to bitch on the internet all day about it? Don't buy it or do one of the work-arounds. MS isn't going to change anything. They have already pointed out that we are to #dealwithit and quit being backwards...

Mike Griffin
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If this escalates into a serious public concern, I know what the machine's first out-of-the-box system update will include.

Probably putting the Xbone in a partially transparent Kinect state by default, or the "opt out" state, with an up front option to turn on the "enhanced customer feedback program" if desired.

Instead of the reverse.

It's still going to come across as confusing for the average consumer, and that's likely what Microsoft and its partners are hoping for. Even if they only snare a smaller percentage of millions of users, that's a shitload of valuable, nuanced viewer information to draw upon when combined with purchasing metrics.

Bob Allen
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A better question is why is this a concern for the Xbox One when every cell phone, laptop, iPad, etc. for the last five years has had a front-facing camera? I suspect of all those devices, the game console is going to be the one that is the least hackable by an external entity if for no other reason than Microsoft wants to keep the system buttoned-down as long as possible to make money and can push out mandatory updates to clog any security holes.

The "closed" nature of the console is going to be more secure than the completely hackable phones and laptops that have to rely on the dozens of individual manufacturers to update potentially hundreds of individual models.

And for those who are still worried, they have an option they don't have with a laptop or a phone- point the Kinect sensor at a wall or buy the inevitable Mad Katz "security cover" like they had for the 360 Kinect.

Jonathan Gilmore
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Totally agree. It's a legitmiate concern but everyone already has at least a couple of devices that can be used to spy on them in any number of ways-why his sweaty paranoia about the Kinect, as if it is a totally new concern?

Mike Griffin
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Probably due to the Kinect 2.0 tech itself, and its ability to capture granular details.

Like complex facial expressions, biometrics, number and type (adult, child, etc.) of users in the room, and so forth.

Your phone, tablet or laptop don't feature a camera array capable of such a range of detail, with equally capable software designed to snoop, aggregate, and send all those details.

And nobody really wants to point the hardware (they paid good money for) at a wall to circumvent overt user tracking. That's not great.

But I'm sure, in the end, Microsoft will get a handle on this issue and talk about it, make some changes, and calm fears. It's certainly a good lesson for them, and far better to get this out in the open now -- before the console hits the street.

WILLIAM TAYLOR
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"It's a legitmiate concern but everyone already has at least a couple of devices that can be used to spy on them in any number of ways-why his sweaty paranoia about the Kinect, as if it is a totally new concern?"

Microsoft dared to show features that aren't 100% focused on gamers. Gamers are upset about this and thus any announcement about anything is met with ire. Someone could probably make an article that you need an email account to sign up for XBL and you'd get like 2000+ replies on sites like IGN or Gamestop complaining that MS is at it again.

Ting Chow
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@Bob: My laptop and my cellphone work just fine with the cameras turned off. In fact those devices are just as useful to me with or without the cameras. So my option for those devices is already available, which is to do nothing since the cameras are already off to begin with and don't turn on without my consent.

Based on word of mouth coming from MS representatives and circulating in the media, this may not be the case for XBone and Kinect 2. It sounds like both the XBone and the Kinect 2 have to be on at the same time, and Kinect 2 has to be monitoring or listening in order to function as intended.

If the XBone can function with the Kinect 2 completely off, that would be great. Would be even better if the XBone can function with the Kinect 2 compeletely out of the picture. But it doesn't sound like any MS representatives have been able to confirm either.

Your "solution" is just an inconvenience and also further shows how unnecessary the Kinect 2 is, assuming that it works. If the Kinect 2 wants to see actual humans in order to allow even some basic operations, then your solution doesn't work.

William Barnes
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The iPhone, iPad, and iPod are walled gardens. ALL software for the platforms are vetted by Apple. Even they have problems from time to time. Windows Phone is nearly there. (BTW, Metro is on ALL Windows device platforms in production... All MS OSes and platforms are Windows 8 based.)
As to why the Kinnect and XB1 vs the rest of the stuff that could potentially do the same? Visibility and profile.

brad coleman
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Plug it in and tape some tin foil over the lense... Not that I'm planning on actually getting one. SONY AND mICROSOFT SEEM DETERMINED TO PUSH ME BACK TO THE PC AS MY SOLE GAMING SYSTEM.

Kujel s
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What no love for Nintendo or Ouya???

brad coleman
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Yeah no love for Nintendo anymore and no experience with the ouya.

Matthew Munsinger
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I worked for Microsoft's Xbox Customer Service. I was in the highest level of support that they offer and often had meetings with executives from around the company.

I learned a lot about Microsoft, as a company. More than anything, I learned that it is a very active and deliberate policy to prey on people's stupidity and laziness. The EULA for Xbox360 and Xbox LIVE Services is designed to put sole responsibility for anything that could go wrong - including things like a third party hacking their devices - on the customer, not on Microsoft.

The various online stores offered through the Xbox are likewise designed so that any bug or error that results in a loss to Microsoft is very quickly stamped out, while bugs that lose a customer Microsoft Points were completely ignored and given no priority for long spans of time.

A big part of my job was contacting customers who had just those kind of experiences, and were angry enough to go to the Better Business Bureau, or the Attorney General. I was supposed to mollify these customers, but my number one priority was to make amends by giving things away that don't cost Microsoft anything directly - things like Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions or extended warranties.

There's no doubt in my mind that they'll use the XBox One Kinect to gather as much information as they can from everyone that they can. They'll design every service to force you to opt into more, and when 3rd parties inevitably do gain access to your Kinect, those same service agreements will have taken any legal foothold out from underneath the you.

The scary part is, they know it won't last. Something will happen that's big enough that they'll change the policy and allow people to just unplug the Kinect. Eventually, they'll let people play single player games offline and not require you to connect every day. The point is how much data they can mine BEFORE that happens, and how much they can continue to squeeze out afterward.

Alexander Jhin
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My guess as to why the Kinect must be connected at all times: If they let you unplug it, many people will never use it. Given a choice between a revolutionary control scheme and familiar one, most people will choose the familiar most of the time.

It's like when DOS and Windows were both available: A ton of people stuck to the DOS command line and never even tried Windows.

Additionally, requiring the Kinect to be connected and now 3rd party devs can guarantee that it's available... now they don't have to code two code paths: One with Kinect attached, one without. That makes certification a lot simpler... the box simply doesn't work if it's not Kinected.

Jonathan Gilmore
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I don't think you are correct-people will always use the easier system, or else people would still use DOS.

Lex Allen
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I'm so paranoid that I turn even turn my microphone off to my computer when I'm not using it. I used to have to put a sticky note over the camera on my monitor at work so my boss wouldn't spy on me.

Alex Covic
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Some additional context: Germany's "Federal Commissioner for Data Protection ..." is a powerless public office title. His only influence is to give interviews in public. The REAL pressure is going to come from consumer advocacy groups and lobbyists towards the European Commission and European Parliament.

In my mind, there is no doubt, that law suits are coming, if Microsoft tries to sell their new XBOX as is. The question is only "how big", "how much will it cost".

The European Union made Microsoft sell Windows Operating Systems without MS Mediaplayer* in the past.
European judges and politicians feel the pressure (or share their citizens paranoia) over privacy issues to the degree, that they made Google adjust Google Services (restricted/censored access to Google books, Google Maps, YouTube) and the EU gave an official warning to Google about their StreetView product.**

Hordes of Microsoft lawyers & lobbyists will have to do a ton of work to coordinate their response towards the elected officials in Europe, if they really want to sell their "living room" experiences to their lab-rats-consumers.

This has EVERYTHING to do with next level data mining people and their behavior and biometrics in their living rooms. Microsoft is introducing a new, improved way to collect valuable data. They are selling the possibilities of what non-(ex-)gamedev, marketing and Mad Men types can do with it. You are naive, if you don't see the bigger picture of what big companies are interested in.

Microsoft believes, they have found a new fountain and are pushing for it. They are playing a bigger game.


*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition
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**) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Street_View_privacy_concerns#
European_Union

Babak Kaveh
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Even tough Mr. Schaar is not very kind to Microsoft about the potential invasion of privacy the XBox One could bring about, he never said "...The fact that Microsoft could potentially spy on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare,..."

the original article quote is:

"Angst davor, dass Microsoft über die in der Konsolenkamera integrierten Mikrofone Gespräche abhört, hat Datenschützer Peter Schaar nicht: "Dass Microsoft jetzt mein Wohnzimmer ausspioniert, ist bloß eine verdrehte Horrorvision."

which loosely Translates to:
"Peter Schaar does NOT seem concerned with the possibility that the microphone on the Kinect will be used to listen in on conversations and said: thinking that Microsoft is going to spy on me in my living room is merely a misguided scary conspiracy theory."

With that out of the way, I think the always-on camera/microphone, is the straw that will break the camel's back. From an engineering perspective, its is extremely easy to have a low-powered DSP chip on the camera that only processes voice commands locally, and only sends the power-up signal to the XBox and network cards, when it has detected the command.

This has been done as early as 2001. Just google "IEEE" and "Realization of speech recognition using DSP (digital signal processor)". If academics can do it in 2001, I am sure Microsoft can come up with a low-cost version of it in 2013!


This would eliminate the remote chance of third parties breaking into your system and spying on you (As they can with most fancy phones/tablets these days), lower the processing load on the main processor at all times, and help Microsoft with their image problem.

Mike Griffin
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But hey, the Xbone will have an Achievements system for TV watching (really).
I wonder what else non-gaming related they'll reward you for, and how they use the Kinect to monitor it.

"Media Slave" achievement unlocked!
"Big Brother Lover" achievement unlocked!
"Corporate Partner Reach Around" achievement unlocked!
"Good Lord, It's Sad What I've Become!" achievement unlocked!

julia goolia
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I guess that gigantic data bank being built in Utah will be put to good use with this. I will not be purchasing this console.


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