Germany federal commissioner for data protection and freedom of information Peter Schaar has a few concerns about the privacy implications of the Xbox One and the mandatory Kinect sensor that comes with the console.
In a statement to Spiegel Schaar voiced concerns over what will happen with the data the Xbox One‘s Kinect collects. The new Kinect that comes with the Xbox One puts an always-on microphone and camera in the user’s living room. With the new device users can turn their Xbox One on using voice commands, though the device can theoretically collect data even when in a low-power mode.
A Google translation of Schaar’s statement reads:
The Xbox continuously records all sorts of personal information about me. Reaction rates, my learning or emotional states. The are then processed on an external server, and possibly even passed on to third parties. Whether they will ever deleted, the person can not influence.”
The concern is that Microsoft will keep data from the Kinect sensor on its servers and possibly pass the information along to other companies. If Microsoft does store the data from the Kinect the user likely won’t have the option to delete it, and there’s no way to use the console without the sensor.
Microsoft and any other company with access to the Xbox One Kinect’s data can learn a lot about the console’s users. In addition to voice commands the sensor can detect faces, track the user’s head movements and even check their heart rate. There are some potentially interesting gameplay possibilities that can use that data, but some will lose a bit more privacy over those experiences.
In addition to privacy concerns, a recent Microsoft patent may make users pay more for content depending on how many users are in a room. The Xbox One may make users pay more for movies, for example, if it detects more than ten people in the room, as it would qualify as a public showing instead of a private viewing.
As with any data collected by the Kinect, a patent for such a “feature” doesn’t mean Microsoft will actually use it.