There has been a lot of speculation that the new Microsoft XBox One (XBox 1) will essentially be spying on its owners. Well, ‘spying’ may be too strong a word but, at least, that it will have the potential to spy on its owners when combined with the required Kinect motion-detecting web-cam, an ever-vigilant watching and listening device connected to the Internet.
These concerns arose after rumours started spreading that the new XBox One required a near 24/7 Internet connection and requires the Kinect.
Now Microsoft, apparently in response, has updated the XBox One website with, among other things, a list of “Networking Requirements”:
To ensure Xbox One works optimally and can offer the experiences described above, it is designed with the following networking requirements:
For an optimal experience, we recommend a broadband connection of 1.5Mbps. (For reference, the average global internet connection speed as measured recently by Akamai was 2.9 Mbps). In areas where an Ethernet connection is not available, you can connect using mobile broadband.
While a persistent connection is not required, Xbox One is designed to verify if system, application or game updates are needed and to see if you have acquired new games, or resold, traded in, or given your game to a friend. Games that are designed to take advantage of the cloud may require a connection.
With Xbox One you can game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, or one hour if you are logged on to a separate console accessing your library. Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies.
This may calm fears about the XBox One having to always be connected to the Internet, but it doesn’t address the need for the Kinect.
And it seems that those fears may have some basis in reality. In fact, in an interview with XBox’s Jeff Henshaw, Henshaw said that “If you want privacy, we’ll give you modes that ensure your privacy.”
Shouldn’t that be the default, instead of a mode that you have to select?
Apparently not, because you can’t remove the Kinect, or your XBox One won’t work. It requires it.
Says Henshaw, “It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether. But you’ll be able to put the system in modes where you can be completely secure about the fact that the camera is off and can’t see you.”
And Harvey Eagle, Microsoft’s UK Marketing Director for XBox explained that “Kinect does require to be connected to Xbox One in all cases, yes.”
All that said, Microsoft is also making an effort to address concerns about the Kinect with the following statements:
You are in control of what Kinect can see and hear: By design, you will determine how responsive and personalized your Xbox One is to you and your family during setup. The system will navigate you through key privacy options, like automatic or manual sign in, privacy settings, and clear notifications about how data is used. When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded.
You are in control of when Kinect sensing is On, Off or Paused: If you don’t want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say “Xbox Off.” When the system is off, it’s only listening for the single voice command — “Xbox On,” and you can even turn that feature off too. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you’ll need to turn it back on for these experiences.
You are in control of your personal data: You can play games or enjoy applications that use data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate and more, but this data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission. Here are a few examples of potential future scenarios:
A fitness game could measure heart rate data to provide you with improved feedback on your workout, allow you to track your progress, or even measure calories burned.
A card game could allow you to bluff your virtual opponent using your facial expressions.
You can use other inputs to control your games, TV and entertainment experiences: While it’s faster to find what you’re looking for using your voice and gesture commands with Kinect, you can use a controller, your remote controls or your smart devices instead. And you can use all of these devices when Kinect is paused.
You can read more from Microsoft about XBox One’s use of the Kinect here.
You can read more from Microsoft about the XBox One generally here.