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Xbox One + NSA = nothing. But it'll still hurt Xbox One.

For months, the Xbox One has been getting slammed, but now that the DRM has been axed, some of the other details of the system are being brought into the forefront.

Namely, the requirement of the Kinect camera. Of course, it didn't help that the exact same day Microsoft announced their DRM and 24-hour policies on June 7th, another news article broke regarding PRISM, a program conducted by the NSA to mine data. Microsoft was/is a big part of PRISM since its creation in 2007, though Microsoft denied it. Other articles surfaced to remind people that Microsoft got busted for spying on Skype users' conversations, and when people heard that the Xbox One's video chat would be done via Skype, they started to put together the pieces.

A lot of people got scared. Granted, it wasn't too big of a leap of logic. Online-required console + camera-required console + partnership with NSA = spying, right? Although the online requirement has died (well, you do still need to connect it for a one-time patch), the fear remains. Some people are genuinely nervous about their privacy. Other gamers think the fears are silly and unfounded.

First, let's debunk some of the dumber statements being thrown around. One of the most popular ones goes something like this:

"So maybe you should get rid of your smartphone too if you're so afraid of spies. Hurr hurr!"

This is silly. We're comparing a phone - which the majority of people need in their day-to-day lives - with an optional gaming console. If I want a cell phone, I have options. There are dozens of smartphones that don't have a camera (if someone wanted to avoid a camera). On the other hand, I have no option to buy a Kinect-less Xbox One. I have no option of buying an Xbox console made by Samsung or Apple. There is no choice.

Not to mention, it's a bit of a breach of logic to argue "you have a camera on your phone. Therefore you're a hypocrite if you don't want a camera on your videogame console!"

The main issue is that people are buying a product that may spy on them. Privacy is important to a lot of people, and although many of us freely give up that privacy via Skype chats, emails, or Facebook, people still want that illusion of choice. The notion that a camera attached to my game console could be recording data without my knowledge is in a different league compared to my wife voluntarily uploading pictures of my vacation to Shutterfly.

Privacy is important to people, and it extends beyond gaming. There are some people who don't care, there are some people who do care, there are some people who are paranoid, but the vast majority of people get a bit antsy when they know there is someone spying on them. To dismiss these concerns with a casual #dealwithit reeks of arrogance.

Ultimately, while I do find it disturbing that the Xbox One COULD be used to spy on its users, it does not matter because I doubt that it WILL be used to spy on its users in any significant numbers.

The biggest problem is perception.

Yes, Kinect can be turned off, but it's still required. Yes, it's not always listening, except that it IS always listening for you to say "Xbox ON".

The target market for the Xbox One is North America. Most in Europe and Japan have already written it off. And yet, a hot topic in America is the Patriot Act nearing its expiration and whether intruding on privacy is worth it anymore. Even if Xbox One never, ever, ever intrudes on your privacy and sends data to Microsoft or the NSA, the camera is still there, staring at you, watching you. The perception will be that Microsoft is spying on you, even if they aren't. The sentiment that Xbox One will spy on you is all over Youtube, Facebook, and even The Daily Show's Back in Black segment (here: http://www.youtube.com/watc... ). Popular conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones (who has several million viewers/subscribers between Youtube and his own website) are already spreading FUD and fear regarding the Xbox One camera. Closer to launch, you can bet your game library that larger news outlets like Fox, CNN, BBC, and ITV will give their own news story, even if that news story is titled with an innocent "Is Xbox One Spying On YOU?"

Perception is the problem. The damage to the PERCEPTION of the Xbox brand will last years. Naysayers are quick to retort "People will forget it. By launch time, no one will remember this stuff". They won't? People still remember the PSN hack. People still remember the RROD. And it doesn't even matter if the perception is false. Once it takes hold, it becomes very difficult to shake. There are people who STILL think the SNES versions of Mortal Kombat don't have blood. There are people who STILL think that E.T is what caused the console market to crash. Perception is powerful.

When a console has bad perception, it creates a snowball effect (I already blogged about how the Xbox One is now the media's new "whipping boy" like the PS3 was back in 2006-2009). You think it's bad NOW? Oh ho ho boy, just you wait. Remember the "OtherOS" debacle? Sony took out OtherOS which affected, at a max, a few thousand users, and look what happened. It led to the PS3 getting hacked and PSN going down for a month. The media had a field day.

Imagine what will happen (and this WILL happen, mark my words) when someone gets their first "Recommendation" or "custom advertisement" on the dashboard. Let's say someone is muching on a bag of Sun Chips and a new ad pops up saying "You like chips? Buy Dorito Fusion and get a free Halo 5 map". Whether it's correct or not, people are going to assume the Xbox One spied on them. And then it will snowball. More people will show more "proof" that the Xbox One is spying (like showing a T-shirt of Big Bang Theory and then screencapping a "TV recommended for you" showing the Big Bang Theory TV show). Microsoft will issue an official statement that says something like "your privacy is important to us. We never use the Xbox One Kinect to spy on your or intrude on your privacy or to collect advertising data", but whether they're being truthful or not won't matter one bit. People will just reply "uh huh. Suuuuuure" and continue posting pictures of their Gundam DVD collection and then screencapping recommendations for Titanfall and Pacific Rim, saying "see? See? Kinect is spying on me!" Perception is quite powerful once it takes hold.

And it will be even worse when bigger news outlets decide to jump on it. The mass media is getting a bit bored ragging on violent videogames. They need a new whipping boy. Oh? What's this? A videogame that SPIES on you? A videogame that can detect your facial expressions, your heartbeat, recognize your voice, count how many people are in the room? My goodness! We have to warn the general public! We have to warn the defenseless single mothers and grade-school children who might be EXPOSED to this travesty! Although these claims are exaggerated, we're talking about the same mass-media that claimed Mass Effect had "full blown uncensored nudity and sex littered throughout the game". This is the same mass-media that calls videogames "murder simulators and training tools for serial killers". You think they won't go a bit overboard describing a camera-required console that can recognize voice commands and your facial features?

You honestly think the mass-media isn't going to jump to wild conclusions regarding a videogame console with a REQUIRED camera? You think it'll all blow over before launch?

If you think it'll all blow over, I have someone for you to meet. His name is "2006 Sony fanboy". Everyone said Giant Enemy Crab and 599 US Dollars would blow over by launch, and the PS3 still sold well, but the perception remained. Everyone said "no gamez" would blow over, and it did eventually, but the "no gamez" reputation lasted for years. People are saying the lopsided online polls, the negative articles, the fan outrage, the bad PR, and the lopsided preorders all will just blow over. Those are some strong winds you're hoping for.

I doubt the NSA will spy on us through the Xbox One, and I don't think proving or disproving it will matter. What matters is perception, and right now the Xbox One has a whole lot of negative perception swirling around it. It makes no difference if Xbox One will really spy on us. What matters is a lot of people THINK it will spy on us, and runaway rumors and unfounded fears are often more dangerous than the truth.

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Valenka1112d ago

Food for thought for sure. A dash of skepticism and a pinch of paranoia, but definitely substantially valid thoughts. Well written and well orchestrated opinion as always!

FriedGoat1111d ago (Edited 1111d ago )

This is not paranoia.
Microsoft is giving access for the NSA to mine skype data, video calls etc. They already have petabytes of data. You really think they are going to exclude the xbox one? No.

We already know that all this data being collected can be accessed by NSA without any court rulings etc even though Obama stated that they can't (BS as Snowden proved it).

Its most likely too late for the PC side of things, google are in on it and other large corporations.

But not all consoles are, if you value your privacy excuse my french, F*** MS and F*** Xbox one.

ColdFeet1109d ago

PS4 won't be exempt from NSA prying. The vita has skype built in . The providers that are said to report for PRISM are Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, facebook, paltalk, youtube, skype, aol, apple. Regardless there's little doubt in my mind that the government has been doing this far longer than most people think and you might as well assume that anything on the internet is fair game to mass data collection.

FriedGoat1108d ago

Skype is not built into the vita at all, its a seperate download. If you've noticed, all those companies you are referring to are American. I doubt a japanese company is going to be in on it. But yeah, the rest of the stuff is probably right.

KingOfArcadia1106d ago

My, paranoid much? Do you really think that the NSA has enough manpower to watch/listen to all the information they gather? Of course not. In the same way, they aren't going to start mining Kinect data so they can watch me gaming in my underwear in front of my big screen. Could they? Possibly. Would I care? Hardly.

FriedGoat1105d ago

Arcadia, Its not paranoia if it's true.....
I'm not saying they will go through absolutely all the data, i'm saying they have ACCESS TO IT. It's people like you that don't deserve freedom, go live in your dictatorship.

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WeMilk1111d ago SpamShow
SilentNegotiator1112d ago (Edited 1112d ago )

All it would take is one government suit to request data from someone's Xbox One (Because you googled "bomb" for some clip art), and Microsoft would deliver it with bells on. That's EXACTLY how the PRISM thing has worked the last few years; ANY data that they request that is or can be recovered.

FriedGoat1111d ago (Edited 1111d ago )

I'm not sure if you've properly looked this up. PRISM isn't about picking individuals out. PRISM is about mining ALL of the data.They aren't saying "oh this guy looks suspicious, lets get his data!" They are collecting everyones data, all the time.

They have all kinds of tech installed by telecom companies that tap the fibre optic networks, these have been installed since as far back as 2008.

They aren't looking for "terrorists", you're more likely to be killed by a cop than be hit by a terrorist attack. These aren't conspiracy theories either, you can look this stuff up.

What pisses me off the most, is that 850,000 NSA employees can just freely look at emails to my loved ones or anything. It's not a case of following proceedings, all it takes is one NSA employee to get bored, "oh I wonder what this person has been doing"
Screw em all.

thorstein1111d ago

Fried, if you really are interested. Look into what Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing with public schools and their "data."

Worse yet, look at what they are trying to do to public education in general. It is sickening!

PopRocks3591112d ago (Edited 1112d ago )

http://techcrunch.com/2013/...

Thought I'd throw this link your way. Honestly, I think you're on the ball on this topic, but Microsoft certainly is not doing itself any favors if a report like this turns out to be true. Frankly I don't think anyone will care either way.

EDIT: Copy/pasted the incorrect link at first. My bad lol.

Darrius Cole1112d ago

Spies don't tell you that they are spying on you.

mrmarx1112d ago

well with xbox you pay them 60 dollars a year to spy on you lol thats even worse

MysticStrummer1112d ago

James Bond almost never uses an alias. He's a well known agent but nearly always uses his real name when introducing himself to the villain. Clearly, this translates to the real world and authentic espionage techniques.

RiPPn1111d ago

The spies didn't tell us, the whistleblower did, which is why the spies want his head now.

stuna11112d ago

We live in a era where technology is taking leaps and bounds, so it stands to reason that that same technology can be used for good or ill! Many don't have to look far to realize this is factual, take the manhattan project for example! The devastation that project brought about was incredible, but one has to ask the question is it because of the this weapon was used that other countries felt that they had to develop their own weapon in response!?

What I'm trying to say is mankind has a propensity to delve into the positive aspects of things to make situation better, but mankind also lets curiosity have free reign at investigating and experimenting with the negative aspects of that same situation.

A question I would ask if given the chance to some the company bigwigs is, how many of them are willing to sacrifice their own privacy and that of their own families, to have the same product that they are trying to push to the consumers sitting in their own home. I think in retrospect many wouldn't even consider it.

The reason people trying things like this is mainly because when someone actually does speak out against it, many know if it's not the popular opinion that there will always be someone out there to try to discredit the unpopular belief! And the sad thing about it is, that person could be 100% correct.

I have been on this planet long enough to know everything cannot be taken at face value, and that there is nothing wrong with being skeptical about any situation.

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