Possible privacy violations by Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One have come under new scrutiny since it was revealed Thursday that the tech giant was a crucial partner in an expansive Internet surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency and involving Silicon Valley’s biggest players.
One of the console’s key features is the full integration of the Kinect, a motion sensing camera that allows users to play games, scroll through menus, and generally operate the Xbox just using hand gestures. Microsoft has touted the camera as the hallmark of a new era of interactivity in gaming.
What Microsoft has not promoted, however, is the fact that you will not be able to power on the console without first enabling the Kinect, designed to detect both heartbeats and eye movement. and positioning yourself in front of it.
Disturbingly, a recently published Microsoft patent reveals the Kinect has the capability to determine exactly when users are viewing ads broadcast by the Xbox through its eye movement tracking. Consistent ad viewers would be granted rewards, according to the patent.
Perhaps the feature most worryisome to privacy advocates is the requirement that the Xbox connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Many critics have asserted that Microsoft will follow the lead of other Silicon Valley companies and use their console to gather data about its users, particularly through the Kinect, and collect it through the online connection users can’t avoid.
Microsoft has promised that customers will be able to “pause” the camera’s function, but have put off questions on the precise specifics of their privacy policies.