Xbox One, Kinect Present a Bundle of Privacy Concerns
All of these potential avenues through which Microsoft can gather information on players even when those players don’t know information is being gathered lead to the question of being able to “opt out.” When we know what data Microsoft will gather and how it will be applied, this will likely be answered in due course as well; we already know Microsoft will use at least some of your user data to customize your experience, and so certainly some people will want to abstain from sharing any data, and some will be fine with it.
The tricky part here comes from how easy Microsoft makes it to opt out for the normal consumer, and how well Microsoft protects under-aged Xbox One users. All this data-gathering might be fine for an adult — after all, you bought the console, so you presumably knew or should have known what you were getting into. Under many states’ laws, though, under-age users are protected because they’re not expected to know better, and companies like Microsoft aren’t allowed to gather personal data on them.
So if Microsoft says it can recommend movies you might like and customize the Xbox One experience to the user, that means it’s gathering and applying personal data, and there are sure to be parents who will feel uncomfortable about that. If past controversies in the mobile sphere and other tech sectors are any indication, lawmakers are going to be uncomfortable with it, too.
Without an easy, comprehensive way to opt out, the Xbox One could be a huge, wide-open window on your life for advertisers, game publishers, and Microsoft itself. The most frustrating thing about all this at the moment is that we just don’t know. We don’t know what Microsoft is planning. We don’t know what information the Xbox One will be taking down about users. We don’t know how Microsoft intends to use that data. And we don’t know if the only way to stop Microsoft from gathering that data is simply to not buy an Xbox One.
Again, it’s too early to make any definitive judgments, but Microsoft seriously needs to address these privacy concerns, and they’re worth keeping in mind as new information about the Xbox One — and the Playstation 4, which likely will have a lot of similar data-gathering capabilities that we haven’t heard about yet — continues to roll out. They sky might not be falling in terms of privacy for console players, but they should at least be aware that it’s starting to look like rain out here.
The worst-case scenario of the information available right now makes the Xbox One feel less like a great new gaming device and more like a security camera aimed at your life for the purposes of advertising to you.