While the world and his dog went up in arms about Microsoft’s DRM and online activation policies with the Xbox One, not quite so many were worried about the bundled Kinect sensor being always on – you even had a few people say that old classic line, “if you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?” Of course, the “problem,” is that nobody wants Microsoft, or the government (thanks to PRISM and Tempora) recording us playing games, or listening in on our conversations. To help placate those that would never buy an Xbox One, just for this reason alone, Microsoft has come out and said it would try really, really hard not to give the government data.
The problem with Microsoft saying that it would aggressively “challenge,” any attempt by the US government to have it record video or sound on its customers, is that it’s already done it. Not with Kinect, but with Skype. We know for a fact that Skype has been part of the PRISM scheme for the past few years and as long as an NSA analyst (or contractor) thought there was a 51 per cent chance the conversation would involve someone that was not of US nationality, they could have audio and video communications recorded.
It’s hard to believe that would be any different for Kinect 2.0.
In an interview with the Verge however, Microsoft tried to dispel this idea. “Absent a new law, we don’t believe the government has the legal authority to compel us or any other company that makes products with cameras and microphones to start collecting voice and video data,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.
The idea behind this statement, is that because Kinect cameras aren’t part of a conversation with a foreigner, that the fourth amendment would protect a user’s right to privacy. But what if they have a “suspected terrorist,” in their house? Or are using the Kinect to communicate with a foreign friend (remember, until recently Microsoft wasn’t going to bundle a headset with the Xbox One)?
It’s hard to believe anything Microsoft says about privacy not too, since it recently stated that it does not provide any material to the NSA under any voluntary schemes and only does so when given a court order. However, NSA slides revealed by Edward Snowden seem to counteract these claims.
Microsoft has been pressing the Obama administration and the NSA to allow it to let the world in on what data it has actually shared. This is something several of the big tech firms are hoping to do in order to calm fears that they are complicit in the government’s snooping schemes.
KitGuru Says: The fact that Microsoft feels it needs to tell us now that it would aggressively challenge any attempts to record customer meta data or video content, suggests that: 1: it could and possibly will happen, 2: it didn’t aggressively challenge it when Skype was compromised and 3: even if Microsoft did aggressively challenge the government before, we know it didn’t work.
Microsoft should really just stop addressing the Xbox One fears at this point, as it’s just digging a bigger grave for itself.