Protect your privacy from the Xbox One with three metadata-masking tips

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
Font Size:

As Xbox One approaches its Nov. 22 release, critics are calling the amount of personal data the system collects for potential advertising purposes a “data treasure trove,” Advertising Age reports.

The public backlash was enough to prompt Microsoft to make a statement addressing the privacy concerns directly.

“Someone was talking about how some of the new Xbox One Kinect features could be used in advertising, since we can see expressions, engagement, etc., and how that might be used to target advertising,” Microsoft Director of Product Planning Albert Penello said.

“This is the point that seems to draw some controversy,” Penello said referring to the Xbox One Kinect camera, which watches users constantly in order to respond to commands.

Though there’s no way to disable this feature short of throwing a blanket over the system – which would render many of its advertised functions useless – there are ways to protect the way certain “metadata” are collected outside the system.

Metadata is data recording data. It keeps digital track of things like IP addresses, which identify computers and where they’ve been online, the time and bandwidth spent on specific websites, the addresses of senders and receivers of email, the names of computers and hard drives and networks that save and create documents users view.

When all of these bits are combined individuals, companies, and lately the NSA can put together a profile of who you are, what you do, who you talk to and what you like online.

To protect your privacy and identity, you need to mask your metadata. Here are a three ways how:

1. Use a virtual private network (VPN).

A VPN hides your IP address, encrypting your data and web traffic. This keeps any potential observers from knowing who and where you are, or what you do and view online. Your metadata can’t be associated with you without the IP address your VPN hides — learn how to set one up here.

2. Browse the web with Tor.

The Tor browser also masks your IP address while you’re online by bouncing your traffic signal between multiple proxy computers before arriving at your destination. The distributed network tricks websites into logging the last computer your signal came from as you – download Tor here.

3. Chat with “off the record” (OTR).

Adding an OTR chat extension to your favorite instant messenger service provides encryption from one end of your conversation to the other. Servers only see the encrypted versions of your chat, but both you and the person you’re talking to need to download a client. Install Adium for Mac users, which works with AOL, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Get Pidgin for Windows and Linux users.

Microsoft has since updated its official Xbox One site.

“You decide how personalized Xbox One is to you and your family, including privacy settings, manual or automatic sign-in, and how data is used,” a statement on their site reads. “And when you play games or enjoy apps that use sensitive personal data, such as videos, photos, and facial expressions, no one except you can access it, without your express permission.”

Follow Giuseppe on Twitter.