German Data Protection Commissioner Expresses Concern Over Xbox One As Monitoring Device

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs


Last week Microsoft unveiled their latest gaming machine to the world, the Xbox One, and while there are some impressive features, it may come at a cost of losing a little more privacy.  Some may brush off the privacy concerns as a simple tradeoff, but the Federal Data Protection Commissioner for Berlin, Peter Schaar, isn’t so quick to jump on that bandwagon, telling Der Spiegel “The fact that Microsoft is now spying on my living room is merely a twisted nightmare.”

The concerns over privacy mostly stem from the updated Kinect device that will come with every system.  Microsoft’s current Xbox 360 already has a version of the Kinect camera, as an add-on, to allow for sophisticated motion controlled gaming using a system of cameras and sensors that watch each player’s movements.

There were controversies on privacy when that was released, including the amount of data collected and Microsoft’s willingness to hand it over to authorities if asked.  However, those concerns did little to stop the original Kinect from becoming the world’s fastest selling electronic device on record at the time.

So why are people like Peter Schaar expressing new concern over the updated model?  According to Schaar, it has to do with Microsoft going beyond just capturing facial and voice recognition with the new Kinect.  “The Xbox continuously records all sorts of personal information about me. Reaction rates, my learning or emotional states. They are then processed on an external server, and possibly even passed on to third parties. Whether they will ever deleted, the person can not influence.”

Based on the “features” talked about by Microsoft at the devices unveiling, the company wants to monitor you the best they can so that a more custom experience can be delivered.  If you look at recent patent filings placed by the tech company, you can see how much further this camera technology can be taken.  For example, a recent application was for using the Kinect camera to calculate how many people were in the room, and then charge a per-person fee for streaming a movie with the device.

Germans are known for not easily giving up their right to privacy, but will they be willing to give up on having the latest gaming technology?  My guess is the Xbox One will still be a big seller in Germany when released later this year, and people will choose to ignore the brand new telescreen sitting in their living room.


Sources: Der Spiegel, Microsoft

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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