Xbox One 'Spy Camera' Questioned by Australian and German Officials


The Australian and German officials are concerned with the "always on" camera and privacy policies of Xbox One.

Software giant Microsoft revealed in the unveiling of Xbox One is the console's always 'on' Kinect camera is being questioned by activities concerned with privacy. While Microsoft maintains that the company has "very, very good policies around privacy," it's a fact that the Kinect camera is always listening and watching even in a low powered state.

Microsoft exec Phil Harrison told Eurogamer that the Kinect camera does not collect personal information unless the user's "opt" into it even if it is still listening and watching.

"We take it very seriously. We aren't using Kinect to snoop on anybody at all. We listen for the word 'Xbox on' and then switch on the machine, but we don't transmit personal data in any way, shape or form that could be personally identifiable to you, unless you explicitly opt into that," Harrison said.

Australian authorities are concerned with this particular feature of Xbox. Time Vines, director of Civil Liberties Australia, recently told GamesFIX that he is concerned with the Xbox One and Kinect. He said that Microsoft will have to answer questions about its product that has the ability to listen and watch people all the time.

Vines stated, "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 [control], then people should vote with their wallets and skip the next Xbox."

German officials are alarmed as well by the spying capabilities of Xbox in households. Peter Schaar, Berlin's federal data protection commissioner also expressed concerns about the Kinect camera. He told Spiegel Online, "The Xbox One continuously records all sorts of personal information about me. My reaction rates, my learning or emotional states. These are then processed on an external server, and possibly even passed on to third parties. A person cannot influence what information is stored or deleted."

However, Microsoft defended its product claiming that the "always on" camera can be used for marketing research. Another Microsoft exec Phil Spencer hinted at some of the marketing implications that can come from Kinect's watchful eye. In the past, he painted a picture of a scenario where the Kinect camera can collect data for marketing purposes. 

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