The Alarming Nature of The Xbox One's Kinect Requirement and Usage

This should be a concern unless you enjoy the thought of advertisers knowing everything about your television and gaming habits.

I get excited about trying out new gadgets as much as anyone else, but the new Kinect is one brand spanking new piece of technology I would much rather pretend doesn't exist. The concept of accurate and in-depth body tracking is intriguing, but is having this type of technology in the living room and completely open for Microsoft to track really a wise decision?

Before you tell me to get my tinfoil hat, really consider how much you value your privacy. Anyone should have concerns over a major corporation having a live feed inside their home that tracks how many people are in a room, what their names and voices sound like, their heart rate, their movement, and their emotional reactions.

If you think this level of tracking is only going to be used in video games, think again.

Microsoft have applied for a patent that essentially sets television advertisements and the Kinect up to hold hands and integrate the Kinect camera into the advertising process. For example, some ads may request that users hold up a particular product for the camera to scan and reward achievements to the viewer's account.

The above is a bit of a side bar to the main topic, but is a sign that everything you do will be watched, cataloged, and added to metrics data -- as long as your Xbox One is on.

Another sign of the amount of attention you and your living room will be paid is the patent filed last year for a per-view licensing system for set-top boxes and digital displays. With this type of technology in use, the Xbox One will be able to tell how many are people are in a room while you are viewing a particular program and request an additional viewing license (fee) in order for you-plus-whoever-else to continue watching should you surpass the allowed viewer amount for the initial viewing license. Really.

The concept of "privacy of your living room" will be a thing of the past.

Now this is a scary thought.

With the eye of the ever-vigilant Kinect seeing over your living room, Microsoft (and by extension advertising companies) will be able to accurately track your emotions during gaming or watching a movie.

It will be able to tell exactly who you are, what your voice sounds like, and the types of games you like to play and shows you like to watch.

When you go to a friend's house, who also happens to have an Xbox One, it will know you are there instead of at home.

As a person who values my privacy and believes corporations have no place in the home outside of product or service provision, this all is very alarming. You expect to be tracked on the internet, you even expect to be tracked a bit in public -- but you should never expect to be tracked at home, sitting in front of the television.

There's a very clear line between expecting something and accepting something. Just because you expect Microsoft to go all-out with the the Kinect's tracking, should you accept it? Should you really accept giving up our privacy for the sake of entertainment?

The Kinect Requirement and Consumer Rights

It's been revealed that the Xbox One requires the Kinect to function, but we have yet to see what (if any) of its features can be toggled on or off. Being able to toggle some auxiliary features off while watching television or playing games would bring a huge sigh of relief and from the many others worried about their privacy when using the device, but just how much flexibility will they allow?

The patents brought up earlier in this article are heavily advertiser-friendly. Considering Microsoft's overall policies and ad-pumping even on Xbox Live Gold, it's almost unimaginable that they would not want to take full advantage of the mentioned opportunities. The new console's still-fuzzy but potentially devastating used games policy may just be a sign as to how far they are willing to push the envelope to milk the consumer.

While you and your friends in the gaming community may try to fight against the writing on the wall, the real question of the Xbox One's success is going to come down to the mainstream market.

Average consumers who buy every release of their favorite sports title, every year. Who support invasive DRM practices because they simply do not care. These are going to be the people the Xbox One is going to aim for, with pleasure. They are the majority and are the least likely to even utter the words "consumer rights".

If the average consumer is just as complacent with being watched in their own home as they are with being nickel and dimed, the future of gaming - from a core gamer's perspective - is very bleak. Everything will come down to how badly Microsoft wants to play Big Brother.

Published May. 25th 2013
  • Qeeb
    i have an xbox one and play it everyday without kinect plugged in, yall trippin.
  • Mech-Phree_1557
    Featured Contributor
    I think Microsoft is going to get alot of law suits when Xbone hits store shelfs this year. The soccer mom with kids or nfl sports dad isn't going to appreciate the idea of a possible hacker breaking into kinect and watching their kids. I believe most people who buy it simply won't understand the privacy concerns until it goes viral on the net.

    Remember when people flipped out about carrier i.q on cell phones? It was a pr nightmare and many cell phone companies had to uninstall it from the phones to appease customers. Xbone takes this way to far. A friend of mine owns an xbox 360 and told me he would not be buying the new one because of the things he heard about it.

    Personally i dont feel comfortable having a machine demand who my girl friend or other friends are if we are trying to watch a movie. I mean seriously? We paid for the fucking movie! I think all those features like pulse tracking and face recognition is strictly for the ad folks. They are desperate to find out everything about us to sell us their b.s while we play a game.
  • ps_8323
    We all know how ad-tracking companies profile us based on what web pages we visit. That data is fairly extensive and includes metrics like duration of page view, order of sites visited and so on. The XBox One Kinetic is basically a immense step forward in data gathering. It will be able correlate your biometric reactions (pulse rate, movement, eye gaze and other metrics) when you watch ads (or play games, watch movies). The simple upshot is this - parties with access to this data, whether it be companies, governments, data collation agencies or whatever, will be able to tell how you reacted to any particular event on your television display. Please note that this includes moments such as news broadcasts, interviews, endorsed/sponsored messages and so on. The implication, however obscure, is that it is possible to ascertain your beliefs or stance on an issue. Subsequent use of such data, as in marketing, assessment of political allegiances, allocation of security resources and so on, is currently a viable, but undetermined scenario. In other words, it is possible that people monitoring via such technologies could actually use the data gathered to take further actions.
  • Wade_oh
    You think this is new, two words for you "Project Echelon". The US Government listens to all your phone calls. they are recorded and analyzed. They have been doing this since 1979. Imagine how large & sophisticated the Project has gotten now. The fact of the matter is you have been watched for a very long time, its just becoming more open now days.
  • Benjamin _7684
    Only in America would a product be so invasively imperialistic.
    I'm afraid that I'm just not going to take my chances on this one.
    I don't see the industry getting much of anywhere with these kind of rumors. Sony is in trouble with or with without the Playstation brand. In this kind of sluggish market, one of the big three is going down, and Nintendo isn't going to be the one to take the fall.
  • Ralph_6600
    If i do get one, and pending more information, the kinect may find itself with a soft cloth on the camara, and a duct tape cacoon. (i wouldnt want to scratch the poor camera becasue the corporation that made it is disagreeable....)
  • Smootherkuzz
    Everything from blue ray players, freezer,tv,cell phone, tablets,cars,atm,robots ,cable company etc tracks u its the sign of the times welcome to the future.
  • Brian_2906
    I don't think Microsoft is the only problem either. I think any game developer could build spying into their game. The US government could get into game development and use it. Or even the Chinese government. Everyone needs to watch out when it comes to leaving a camera and mic on in their home. You shouldn't be required to use it.
  • Steve P_6406
    Will it know I watch porn? Will it make suggestions about my sexuality? Will it make me a sandwich?

    Will it float?
  • Varón V.B.
    Well, guess that means no more sex in the living room. Joking aside, Tim, there's no way MS is going have in-game, unskippable commercial breaks or whatever. Gamers would go crazy if that happened.

    The fact that the kinect can do all this is alarming (although I must admit the techy in me finds it fascinating). I understand privacy is a huge deal, believe me, I'm a super anti-social guy, and I rarely even tell my best friend what I do when I'm not around him. I value my privacy as much as (hopefully) a lot of other people.

    That being said, I have a couple things I'd like to point out/ask everyone:
    A) No one knows EXACTLY what it can do, so we can't make any judgements until it's actually out and we can see reviews, read stuff, try it out for ourselves, ect.
    B) What is it you do in your living room exactly, that would be so terrifying if someone else knew? I admit that when my buddy asks me what I’ve been up to, I don’t really tell him exactly what. But honestly, if he did happen to find out I was playing Mario Kart and reading a romance novel, would I really be so horribly mortified? The answer is of course, no. So what is it that bothers you about having a camera look at you? Is the couch where you throw all the bodies of your murder victims or something?
    C) Another thing I want to point out is that guys, you can move the camera. Turn it towards the wall. BAM. Now MS will never know that you’re eating cheetos and pepsi. Privacy secured!
    D) And finally, from the words of MS themselves “You definitely will have the software capability to turn off all the capabilities of Kinect.”

    So it looks like we will be able to turn off everything. Crisis averted. Have no fear; we can all have sex on the couch once again.
    *Keep mind that, like I said earlier, we cannot know for certain what we/the kinect can, and cannot do until it actually comes out. I could be eating my words in 5 months for all I know.
  • Tim_7692
    Agree 100%. I for one won't be buying. PS4 here I come.

    People should be very disturbed by the presentation. If microsoft have there own way within a very short time (years) we'll be having unskippable ingame commercial breaks and in between map changes. I don't think many people have realised the direction microsoft is taking 'gaming' by merging it with mainstream corporate media.

    The execs at Microsoft are closely tied to there friends at the other big entertainment corporations that have been badly hurt with the rise of the internet and online gaming. These corporations and they rapidly losing there dominance over peoples lives. Microsoft is trying to prop them back up by bluring the barriors between gaming and 20th century meida. If microsoft fulfills its vision we'll be having commericial breaks every 15 minutes while playing the next skyrim.
  • Andres_5611
    If the Xbone succeeds, the gaming industry will die. I've never flat out refused to buy any console before, I own a 360 and will not be buying the Xbone. I don't give a sh!t what games they show at E3, I'm not about to be ID tracked by a cloud server at Microsoft HQ by my face, listened to, or forced to do anything I don't want to do to watch TV. F**k Microsoft, F**k their business policies and F**k anyone who supports this New World Order device, disguised as a cable box, disguised as a gaming console. This is bigger than gaming, if Sony does the same (ID tracking) I wont be buying the PS4 either. I personally don't think they're that stupid though.
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    From what I've read on other sites, the PS4 camera and Move won't be required for use, though we don't have an official announcement on that. It's baffling Sony haven't taken this time to reveal more about the console, considering the community's attitude toward the X1 at the moment.

    But yeah, there's just too much in this Kinect thing not to be worried about it. It's impossible not to be worried, because if it turns out the way it sounds now and the mass public decide to buy it anyway, this type of data collecting will become accepted. This is not acceptable, no EULA will convince me to sign away my rights on such a massive scale just to play video games on a pseudo-media center.
  • Jamie K
    Featured Contributor
    And then god forbid the government decides to pass something like CISPA (which is currently passed in the House and stalled in the Senate). I can see it being a hop, skip, and a jump away from using Microsoft's kinect to start spying on you. If this law passes, that means all other privacy laws go out the drain, no warrant needed, at the discretion of Microsoft...that's a scary thought.
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    It is indeed a pretty frightening thought. We won't be able to tell the extent to which the Kinect actually watches those in the room until the console is released and we get a good look at the EULA and confirmed reports from users. But for the time being, the very concept of what this is possible of is very alarming. Perfect metrics -- at the expense of your privacy.

    The real worry isn't so much that outside parties would be able to get their hands on the feed from your living room, but more the massive amount of information on a given person this type of system is capable of collecting, and what Microsoft can do with that data.

    The sorts of information the Kinect will be able to track will be worth billions to marketing firms. "Do people pay attention to this?" "Are people getting the emotional impact we want from this?" It's frightening, and it's not a long shot to guess it will happen considering the heavy tie-ins with the television industry.
  • Jamie K
    Featured Contributor
    The potential of all this is very frightening. Although my final judgement is saved for when it officially comes out I know I for one would never use a system that was always "watching". That being said if somewhere down the line I felt I really had to get this system (for whatever reason)...I still wouldn't allow it to stay on. I would just unplug the damn thing when I wasn't playing a game. Not that as of right now I'm planning on buying it anyway...because I most likely not.

    I feel like this is one of those things that you need to spell out to the majority of those who would normally ignore all the privacy rights that are being violated with some of MS's "patents". Though most of the time sadly, people just don't care because that would take effort.

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