Civil Liberties Australia Director Weighs In On Xbox One’s ‘Always Listening’ Kinect

Microsoft’s Xbox One has had one hell of a rough week since its reveal last Tuesday. If it’s not discussion on used game DRM it’s the news that the system will need Kinect up and running all the time. It’s there – listening.

Tim Vines, director at Civil Liberties Australia, has spoken to GamesFix (an MSN-owned outlet) that Kinect always listening isn’t nearly as cool as Microsoft want you to believe.

But first: Privacy Breach: Xbox One A Twisted Nightmare is one hell of a headline.

“People should have the ability to turn off the camera or microphone,” he said, “even if it limits the functionality of the machine.” He added that privacy is “all about control”.

“Of course, if Microsoft doesn’t allow that then people should vote with their wallets and skip the next Xbox.”

“Microsoft’s new Xbox meets the definition of a surveillance device under some Australian laws,” he continued, “so they need to be upfront and tell customers whether anyone else can intercept their information or remotely access their device.”

Peter Schaar, Berlin’s federal data protection commissioner, added to this.

“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.”

Of course, Microsoft aren’t likely to fuel the fires anymore without careful consideration, but clarification’s needed on just what the Kinect is doing with that microphone array whilst it’s waiting for that all important “Xbox On!” command.



  1. “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.”

    So… Microsoft are actually the Patriots? Because this totally sounds like Metal Gear Solid 4!

    “Emotion control. Battlefield control. Everything is monitored… And kept under control.”

    • Good spot! You’re totally right, shame they didn’t call it XBox Zero :) Tim from Australia has some good, if slightly alarmist views. I’ll agree with him though because I like my privacy, although is doing its best to screw me over.

  2. Oh dear Microsoft! Should Xbox One actually be a good console (which if we’re honest it still very well could be) I hate to think of the damage all this negative attention is doing.
    What really gets me is that MS have not stood up in front of the horde at any point and said “no, all this crap is not happening, we are on the side of the consumer”. I really hope they take note of this world wide reaction and make adjustments accordingly. But then – I don’t think I could trust them ever again after not actively defending themselves as much as to convince me they are not actually trying to dictate “how games are played”.

  3. Surveillance device is pretty brutal. It just gets worse for MS

    • I totally agree, if that got into the papers over here it could have horrific problems for Microsoft.

  4. has any consumer electronics device ever had such a negative reaction by the public before?

    no preowned, sometimes always online drm, and now snooping concerns.

    the machine isn’t even out and it seems to be stirring up more controversy than the RROD ever did.

    • The reveal has massively backfired, rather than creating hype, it’s just created negativity towards the console.

      E3 is going to be all about damage limitation and clarification for Microsoft. So far, they’ve offered no concrete information and have blamed the gaming media for causing confusion.

  5. E3 now is all about Damage control for Xbox One.

    If they where more up front better explaining of preowned instead of mixed messaging amongst other things and showing more games the negativity would have been reduced.

    So E3 now is only going at best negate the damage done.

  6. I just read on Polygon that the Xbox One will be able to talk back to you in the future. Their example was when a group of people is sitting on the couch and the Kinect doesn’t recognize a person it will be able to ask who the person is and then proceeds to save the information.

    “Xbox – go home!”
    “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

    • I find this all too creepy. I have to basically get permission from the console itself to play it. Then it remembers me for ever. It’s like a literal elephant in the room hogging the controller.

    • Let’s hope it doesn’t have the ability to put the owner in stasis whilst it brutally murders those that haven’t paid to access the content before waking you up in a few years.

      “Xbox, where is everyone?”
      “They’re dead Dave”
      “They are dead Dave.”
      “Including Pete?”
      “Everyone’s dead Dave.”
      “What? Are you telling me everyone is dead?”
      “Yes, everyone is dead Dave.”

      • If it had Holly’s head and voice I’d buy one! Not if it featured HAL though (recently reincarnated in Oblivion apparently).

    • So what happens if you want to trade in or sell the Xbox one?
      Would Kinect not recognise the user and refuse access to the console

  7. I’ve been saying this for weeks now too but i’ll say it again… Vote with your money people!

    • yes, it’s unbelievable that Microsoft haven’t come out and clarified any of this. They are making it worse by letting the rumours and worries spread.

  8. my wallet is staying firmly shut..if all these rumours and speculation turn out to be true microsoft wont be getting a penny from me!
    xbox fanboy!

  9. I’m re-posting this bit from Phil Spencer interview..
    “You definitely will have the software capability to turn off all the capabilities of Kinect. We want to put the gamer in control. And privacy. The box data information that collects is your data; it stays with you. You are in control of what you want to be collected. Game developers will obviously enable certain features and you’ll be alerted when certain things are happening.”

    One thing that occurs to me is that if they can give the software ability to turn off all the Kinect features, why not the hardware ability – i.e. plug it out.

    While there are privacy laws to protect us, people will probably still need to be careful which boxes they tick when they set up their X1 profile… and maybe PS4 too …Let’s hope all aspects of the data collection will be up front and not hidden beneath reams of small print ..

  10. Vote with your wallet people. If you fancy a bit of this, then go for it. You must be completely mad, but there you go, most gamers are.

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