German Official Expresses Xbox One Privacy Concerns

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German Official Expresses Xbox One Privacy Concerns

xbox one screen

Germany's Federal Data Protection Commissioner has some very harsh words about the intrusive potential of the Xbox One.

If you've been paying any attention at all to the Xbox One sideshow you'll know that motion and voice-based controls are a big part of the action. "Xbox on," you say, and it fires up, and then you grab and stretch and swipe and twist and do the hokey-pokey, because that's what it's all about. But in order for a system like that to work, it has to be listening, even when it's not active, and it has to be watching you - and that, combined with Microsoft's enthusiastic commitment to "the cloud," has a distinctly Orwellian ring to it if you look at it in the right light and let your mind wander.

It's on-the-fringe stuff, but it's not just conspiracy-theory kooks who are thinking about it: Peter Schaar, Germany's Federal Data Protection Commissioner, described the Xbox One as a "monitoring device" in a recent interview with Spiegel. "The Xbox continuously records all sorts of personal information about me. Reaction rates, my learning or emotional states," he said. "They are then processed on an external server, and possibly even passed on to third parties. Whether they will ever be deleted, the person can not influence."

Given its history, the German collective consciousness may be a little more sensitive to the potential intrusiveness of devices like this than most, and Microsoft recently sought to allay fears about the unit's spying potential, telling Kotaku that it can actually be turned "completely off" via the manual power button and that it will offer "simple, easy methods to customize privacy settings [and] provide clear notifications and meaningful privacy choices for how data will be used, stored and shared."

"We know our customers want and expect strong privacy protections to be built into our products, devices and services, and for companies to be responsible stewards of their data," the rep said. "Kinect for Xbox 360 was designed and built with strong privacy protections in place and the new Kinect will continue this commitment. We'll share more details later."

The "share more details later" approach to the Xbox One is a big part of why privacy advocates and consumers are so concerned about the potential for trouble; Microsoft is so desperate to control the message that it's refusing to provide any sort of clear, useful information about the system, leading to all kinds of wild speculation. Yes, it can be turned off - in one way or another, anything that relies on AC power can - but will most consumers bother with that, especially after they've grown used to the thing sitting, idle but on, above their screens?

Source: Spiegel (Google translated), Kotaku

UPDATE: The Google translation of the original Spiegel article (and the Bing translation as well) is rough and easily misinterpreted, and Schaar's comment about the Xbox One representing a "twisted nightmare," which I read (and has been widely reported) as a doom-and-gloom scenario, may be, and very likely is, an expression of the unlikelihood that Microsoft will actually be watching every move you make. Because of that ambiguity, and the lack of anyone immediately at hand who reads German, we've removed reference to the comment. Thanks to Dexter111 for bringing the issue to our attention.

Permalink

Hey no need to worry about being spied on.

If you cant figure out how to turn the xbone off just keep this off button handy!
image

The universal off button.

Andy Chalk:
Microsoft recently sought to allay fears about the unit's spying potential, telling Kotaku that it can actually be turned "completely off" via the manual power button

You know it won't be that easy. No matter what you do it'll always be watching you. Turn it off, it'll be watching. Unplug the cable, it'll be watching. Move out the country, it'll be watching.

It is "always on" after all.

It is somewhat akin to Winston Smith's vid screen; he could turn the volume down but he could never turn it off. He had to squeeze into a tiny spot of his room to avoid its gaze and remain perfectly quiet. I wonder if Microsoft have got around the problem of it seeing in the dark... I feel this is what the XBone will reduce us to.

Hmmm perhaps some EU paddling is in store for Microsoft in the near future.

tmande2nd:
Hey no need to worry about being spied on.

If you cant figure out how to turn the xbone off just keep this off button handy!
image

The universal off button.

Just make sure that you take the Kinect off the top of your TV before you use the off button. Turning your TV back on after using the "off switch" can be problematic :P

Wait, now you can turn the camera off?

Why the hell is Microsoft so vague about everything? Haven't they realized that that's the stupidest thing to do.

If they knew that people weren't going to like their decisions then why didn't they simply not make those decisions.

tmande2nd:
Hey no need to worry about being spied on.

If you cant figure out how to turn the xbone off just keep this off button handy!
image

The universal off button.

Nah what you want is:

image
Will effortlessly obliterate a console.

OT: Totally called the Germans being displeased. That said the thing doesn't have any features outside of the US, so nobody will buy it anyway. As for the privacy issues, thats part of why i wont be buying it.

themilo504:
Why the hell is Microsoft so vague about everything? Haven't they realized that that's the stupidest thing to do.

My personal theory on the matter is Microsoft had no idea they would be facing such a backlash over just about everything and they're scrambling like headless chickens to try and salvage anything from this whole mess, again, just a personal theory of mine and I could be totaly wrong about it. They have been vague as hell about everything since their reveal and it's not helping matters. I'm glad to see something with some pull in the world is calling them out on their douchebag nature with this 1984 piece of bastard tech...

My verison of the "off button" would be a damn 12 guage shotgun with a full tube of shells pointed at it. >:D

Andy Chalk:
Maybe yes, maybe no, but Schaar didn't mince his words about what he sees as the potential for abuse. "The fact that Microsoft [is] now spying on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare," he said.

Not that I don't want to join in with the continued Xbox One bashing, but that isn't actually what he said, it's merely a mistranslation stemming from the Google Translate algorithm and it's being misreported all over. :P

Afraid that Microsoft is listening on conversations about the console's built-in camera microphones, data protection, Peter Schaar has not: "The fact that Microsoft now spying on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare."

Notice the word "not" in there?

He first noted most of his doubts, but what he actually said was that he isn't afraid that Microsoft will listen to his conversations with the camera and the integrated microphone.
"That Microsoft would spy into my living room is only a skewed horror vision."

Angst davor, dass Microsoft über die in der Konsolenkamera integrierten Mikrofone Gespräche abhört, hat Datenschützer Peter Schaar nicht: "Dass Microsoft jetzt mein Wohnzimmer ausspioniert, ist bloß eine verdrehte Horrorvision."

tmande2nd:
Hey no need to worry about being spied on.

If you cant figure out how to turn the xbone off just keep this off button handy!
image

The universal off button.

I like how it's been labeled "YO-HO".

"Hang on, buddy! I just need to get my Yo-ho."

Proverbial Jon:

Andy Chalk:
Microsoft recently sought to allay fears about the unit's spying potential, telling Kotaku that it can actually be turned "completely off" via the manual power button

You know it won't be that easy. No matter what you do it'll always be watching you. Turn it off, it'll be watching. Unplug the cable, it'll be watching. Move out the country, it'll be watching.

It is "always on" after all.

It is somewhat akin to Winston Smith's vid screen; he could turn the volume down but he could never turn it off. He had to squeeze into a tiny spot of his room to avoid its gaze and remain perfectly quiet. I wonder if Microsoft have got around the problem of it seeing in the dark... I feel this is what the XBone will reduce us to.

Yes, the Kinect 2.0 this time around has an HD camera paired with an infra-red camera. This combination means that in a pitch black room they can clearly sense/track/show all 3D objects in the room with 0% shadow. There is footage that shows this functionality.

I personally think that is really cool, as it is the first major consumer device like this that is now able to work in less-than-ideal conditions, something that the previous Kinect and Sony Eye-Toy were incapable of doing. But to go with the theme of comments, "ermergerd cermra!"

themilo504:
Why the hell is Microsoft so vague about everything? Haven't they realized that that's the stupidest thing to do.

If they knew that people weren't going to like their decisions then why didn't they simply not make those decisions.

Probably because they have just found out they have fucked up big time and are trying their best to work out how to spin things to their advantage. Except they aren't giving anyone any answers, so the pit they have dug themselves is only getting deeper and more filled with shit the longer they hold out.

It would be nice if Germany does end up banning the xbone, which means the EU follows suit. Whats the population of the EU? Like 300 or 400 million or more?

i will say its the creepiest piece of tech people would pay to have installed in their living room to monitor them ive heard of

I just wanna say that I'm a Canadian and I've had those same concerns ever since Microsoft applied for that patent on wanting to be able to use the kinect sensor to determine how many people were in your living space watching movies so that it could shut the movie off if too many people were watching it. There's far too much Big Brother in the Xbone for me to buy one, and I don't care if it now has an off switch.

Seriously, Microsoft needs to quit dicking around with what their system can and can't do and just tell us already.

Wal-Mart was forced out of Germany because of privacy laws. Wal-Mart refused to give up their cashier-monitoring security cameras and the German government kicked them out. Of course, Wally World is traditionally FAIL when it comes to international business, but I highly doubt Microsoft can market an always-on Kinect for German households given those same privacy laws.

Question is: Will MS create a German-specific model, with the capability to disable Kinect? Or will they not sell the Xbone in the country? If the prior, what's to stop non-German customers from obtaining the same model?

Double irony: Videogame companies are the ones imposing Orwellian surveillance mechanism, and it's Germany's government who is rushing to stop them.

George Orwell must be scratching his head in his tomb.

I'm liking Germany more and more: it's like I'm meeting a long lost relative!

SkarKrow:

OT: Totally called the Germans being displeased. That said the thing doesn't have any features outside of the US, so nobody will buy it anyway. As for the privacy issues, thats part of why i wont be buying it.

Germany is more of a Playstation country anyway. Aren't that many people who even have XBoxes (or non-banned ones for that matter).

I knew this was going to happen sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to come BEFORE release. Let's see how soon this gets fought over in court.

I've got 2 things to say about the "MS is a big company, they've got nigh-endless funds and can't be beat in court" argument:
A) German law is an incredibly complicated jungle. MS being a US-based company, they'll also find the many laws protecting privacy to be an obstacle in this case (privacy is a basic human right pretected by the german constitution).
B) MS has already been beat in European courts. On top of that, some parts of the EU's government are onto devices with an "expiration date", so MS'll have to fight that, too.

EDIT:fixed the typos.

Oskuro: it isn't ironical, really. German politics as they are now have the sole orientation to be as little like the ones from during and before WWII, because of which we have this orientation.

SkarKrow:

tmande2nd:
snip

snip

Silly fools, why use those when you can use this!
image
Albeit you need a Norse god or an alien to wield it, but once that sucker is off, it is off for good!

OT: The EU really should just install a revolving door when it comes to MS because they always make these global decisions and somehow forget that Europe exists.

I already had no intention of buying the new Xbox based on the fact I have a competent PC already, but now it seems like Microsoft is reaching out and purposely giving me reasons not to buy the thing. Screaming at my TV? Flailing around to navigate basic menus? No game sharing?
They are trying with ALL their might to make me not only ignore this, but laugh at people who buy it.

themilo504:
Why the hell is Microsoft so vague about everything? Haven't they realized that that's the stupidest thing to do.

Because they can't just lie to the public and the truth is too ugly.

Neronium:

SkarKrow:

tmande2nd:
snip

snip

Silly fools, why use those when you can use this!
image
Albeit you need a Norse god or an alien to wield it, but once that sucker is off, it is off for good!

OT: The EU really should just install a revolving door when it comes to MS because they always make these global decisions and somehow forget that Europe exists.

You spoony bard, that's not a hammer for killing xboxes, that's a hammer for killing Jörmungandr and frost giants!!
image

Yeah Micrsoft does that, and forgets it has laws to follow here, then wonders why it ends up being fined billions every now and then for gross violations of those laws.

Microsoft should really know better by now.
How often have IT companies and especially Microsoft been slapped on their fingers by Germany and the EU?
Their whole design for the Xbone is only focused on the US. It is like they didn't even consider other countries in the design process. I'm not even talking about countries or regions with bad internet. I'm talking about the TV features that most likely won't work and when, only very badly, as well as legal questions connected to perma-Kinect and impossible resale of games etc.

I'm expecting them to get a giant slap in the face for that one.

Matthi205:

SkarKrow:

OT: Totally called the Germans being displeased. That said the thing doesn't have any features outside of the US, so nobody will buy it anyway. As for the privacy issues, thats part of why i wont be buying it.

Germany is more of a Playstation country anyway. Aren't that many people who even have XBoxes (or non-banned ones for that matter).

I knew this was going to happen sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to come BEFORE release. Let's see how soon this gets fought over in court.

I've got 2 things to say about the "MS is a big company, they've got nigh-endless funds and can't be beat in court" argument:
A) German law is an incredibly complicated jungle. MS being a US-based company, they'll also find the many laws protecting privacy to be an obstacle in this case (privacy is a basic human right pretected by the german constitution).
B) MS has already been beat in European courts. On top of that, some parts of the EU's government are onto devices with an "expiration date", so MS'll have to fight that, too.

EDIT:fixed the typos.

Oskuro: it isn't ironical, really. German politics as they are now have the sole orientation to be as little like the ones from during and before WWII, because of which we have this orientation.

From what I understand Europe in general is a PlayStation kind of place, and the 360 is only more popular in the UK because of.. i don't really know actually... the steady downfall of any kind of structured and intellectual society? I mean I live in a place where people think Queen copied Justin Beiber so I'll just say it's because everyone is a fucking moron.

I'm also well aware of those things, or were those not directed at me? Microsoft still has sizable fees to be paying for it's browser monopoly bullshit.

This is why I'll strongly recommend Xbone users spend a significant amount of time doing ridiculously gross things in front of the console. I want whoever is on the end to feel as uncomfortable about watching us as we feel about them watching us.

SkarKrow:
snip

Well perhaps MS's CEO is secretly a Frost Giant. I mean you never know, or perhaps they have the Jörmungandr locked in their basements and the Xbone's Kinect will release the monster into the homes of many.
Also, if I ever heard people say that Queen copied Bieber I would slap them upside the head no matter what their age was (okay I wouldn't slap little kids, but you get my point)! That's just...just dirty and disrespects Queen!

If for some reason I end up with one of these, I would just cover it ... like cover the front in tape, put a teeny box over it, make it face the ground, wrap a towel round it ... something!

Just feel awkward having this eye watching you, even PS eye or webcam I turn it to face a wall, unplug it or something just to not have this all seeing eye looking at me ... I feel like I'm Truman on that show of his.

Why don't you just put some electrical tape over it?

SkarKrow:

Matthi205:

SkarKrow:

OT: Totally called the Germans being displeased. That said the thing doesn't have any features outside of the US, so nobody will buy it anyway. As for the privacy issues, thats part of why i wont be buying it.

Germany is more of a Playstation country anyway. Aren't that many people who even have XBoxes (or non-banned ones for that matter).

I knew this was going to happen sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to come BEFORE release. Let's see how soon this gets fought over in court.

I've got 2 things to say about the "MS is a big company, they've got nigh-endless funds and can't be beat in court" argument:
A) German law is an incredibly complicated jungle. MS being a US-based company, they'll also find the many laws protecting privacy to be an obstacle in this case (privacy is a basic human right pretected by the german constitution).
B) MS has already been beat in European courts. On top of that, some parts of the EU's government are onto devices with an "expiration date", so MS'll have to fight that, too.

EDIT:fixed the typos.

Oskuro: it isn't ironical, really. German politics as they are now have the sole orientation to be as little like the ones from during and before WWII, because of which we have this orientation.

From what I understand Europe in general is a PlayStation kind of place, and the 360 is only more popular in the UK because of.. i don't really know actually... the steady downfall of any kind of structured and intellectual society? I mean I live in a place where people think Queen copied Justin Beiber so I'll just say it's because everyone is a fucking moron.

I'm also well aware of those things, or were those not directed at me? Microsoft still has sizable fees to be paying for it's browser monopoly bullshit.

OK, that thing with Queen an Justin Bieber is starting to make me lose faith in humanity.

They weren't directed at you, they were there just to provide perspective to others.
I thought that the Browser Monopoly thing was over years ago? Figures.

[OT]Why does Windows still get bundled with IE? That browser is nowhere near being easy or convenient to use, and is the single most security-issue ridden thing on the entire PC, leaving behind Windows itself in some cases. I've used nearly every single browser in existence[1] and can safely say that IE is the worst of them all.[/OT]

[1] IE6,7,8,9,10; Iceweasel/Firefox/Seamonkey; Safari in all of its versions; Chrome; Opera 6-12; Netscape Navigator; Links; lynx; OffByOne

Keep the posts coming you guys, you're all keeping me from falling asleep in class (hell I am so bored!!)

After all I've seen, heard, and read up on about the Xbox One, I am now a Sony man all the way. I loved the Xbox and quite enjoyed my Xbox 360 for the years that I had it (still have it but never touch it anymore) but now all I play is my PS3 and after all this, I will be getting a PS4.

Also not that I quoted the person but if I ever heard someone say Queen copied "He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Name" I would gladly punch them in the nose.

Matthi205:

SkarKrow:

Matthi205:

Germany is more of a Playstation country anyway. Aren't that many people who even have XBoxes (or non-banned ones for that matter).

I knew this was going to happen sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to come BEFORE release. Let's see how soon this gets fought over in court.

I've got 2 things to say about the "MS is a big company, they've got nigh-endless funds and can't be beat in court" argument:
A) German law is an incredibly complicated jungle. MS being a US-based company, they'll also find the many laws protecting privacy to be an obstacle in this case (privacy is a basic human right pretected by the german constitution).
B) MS has already been beat in European courts. On top of that, some parts of the EU's government are onto devices with an "expiration date", so MS'll have to fight that, too.

EDIT:fixed the typos.

Oskuro: it isn't ironical, really. German politics as they are now have the sole orientation to be as little like the ones from during and before WWII, because of which we have this orientation.

From what I understand Europe in general is a PlayStation kind of place, and the 360 is only more popular in the UK because of.. i don't really know actually... the steady downfall of any kind of structured and intellectual society? I mean I live in a place where people think Queen copied Justin Beiber so I'll just say it's because everyone is a fucking moron.

I'm also well aware of those things, or were those not directed at me? Microsoft still has sizable fees to be paying for it's browser monopoly bullshit.

OK, that thing with Queen an Justin Bieber is starting to make me lose faith in humanity.

They weren't directed at you, they were there just to provide perspective to others.
I thought that the Browser Monopoly thing was over years ago? Figures.

[OT]Why does Windows still get bundled with IE? That browser is nowhere near being easy or convenient to use, and is the single most security-issue ridden thing on the entire PC, leaving behind Windows itself in some cases. I've used nearly every single browser in existence[1] and can safely say that IE is the worst of them all.[/OT]

Well they got a huge fine over it, paid it, and were told they had to put in a screen on first boot of any PC asking you to pick a broswer with at least IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. I've seen the screen that should be there, but I've never seen it in real life though. As a result of not doing this, they were fined again last year over it.

[1] IE6,7,8,9,10; Iceweasel/Firefox/Seamonkey; Safari in all of its versions; Chrome; Opera 6-12; Netscape Navigator; Links; lynx; OffByOne

Neronium:

SkarKrow:
snip

Well perhaps MS's CEO is secretly a Frost Giant. I mean you never know, or perhaps they have the Jörmungandr locked in their basements and the Xbone's Kinect will release the monster into the homes of many.
Also, if I ever heard people say that Queen copied Bieber I would slap them upside the head no matter what their age was (okay I wouldn't slap little kids, but you get my point)! That's just...just dirty and disrespects Queen!

Well if Microsoft has frost giants we could be staring down the start of Ragnarok here... could be interesting... would definately necessitate Mjolnir though, perhaps even Gugnhir (spelling may be wrong).

Yeah if I ever see it in real life, I will likely punch the culprit square between the eyes.

Nobody disrespects Freddy and gets away with it >_O

Also for some reason I was not notified you'd quoted me.

Quiet Stranger:
Keep the posts coming you guys, you're all keeping me from falling asleep in class (hell I am so bored!!)

After all I've seen, heard, and read up on about the Xbox One, I am now a Sony man all the way. I loved the Xbox and quite enjoyed my Xbox 360 for the years that I had it (still have it but never touch it anymore) but now all I play is my PS3 and after all this, I will be getting a PS4.

Also not that I quoted the person but if I ever heard someone say Queen copied "He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Name" I would gladly punch them in the nose.

That would be me, see my above post. I really think we might need some kind of purge to get rid of some of the stupid people on this planet.

SkarKrow:

Quiet Stranger:
Keep the posts coming you guys, you're all keeping me from falling asleep in class (hell I am so bored!!)

After all I've seen, heard, and read up on about the Xbox One, I am now a Sony man all the way. I loved the Xbox and quite enjoyed my Xbox 360 for the years that I had it (still have it but never touch it anymore) but now all I play is my PS3 and after all this, I will be getting a PS4.

Also not that I quoted the person but if I ever heard someone say Queen copied "He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Name" I would gladly punch them in the nose.

That would be me, see my above post. I really think we might need some kind of purge to get rid of some of the stupid people on this planet.

I agree, shall we meet over milk and cookies and discuss a plan on how to enact the purging?

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