The following image has been floating around the tumblsphere and similar corners of the internet:
The image, based on half-truths and outdated information, plays on fears to stir up ire for the just-announced Xbox One, and I think there’s a lot worth debunking and discussing here.
While Kinect needs to be connected, it can be disabled in the system settings. The system can be turned completely off, too, according to a Kotaku article last week.
And sure, yeah, one in two webcams can be hacked, but this webcam is on a system with a very limited number of ways to execute code on it, and you can bet the version of IE included with the system is going to be heavily sandboxed. The Xbox 360 is yet to be compromised through software in any way that hasn’t been immediately addressed – it requires a hardware mod. The hypervisor that runs the Windows and Xbox operating systems is going to be locked down even tighter after nearly 8 years of security research with the current console.
The thing is, if you’re afraid of having an always-on camera and microphone near you, probably get rid of your cellphone, because it’s equally risky, especially with an open platform like Android.
And yes, Microsoft has filed a patent to use the Kinect as a way to target ads and make advertising interactive. They haven’t said anything about helping the government or that the Kinect will be used in advertising. They’ve filed a patent. That happens as much because they want to keep other companies from profiting off it as much as because they intend to use it. I’m not ascribing any good will to Microsoft here.
Even if they do use it to target ads, I would rather see ads relevant to me, rather than see something totally out of left field. Hulu could be much less irritating, for example. And don’t say you shouldn’t see any ads anywhere at all ever, because you live in 2013 and that’s not how it works.
Using the camera to enforce viewer limits and viewer presence on paid content and ads is, again, a possibility, but not one that’s terribly likely considering the Kinect unit can be disabled. Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can detect whether you’re watching the screen or not. Imagine if an ad stopped every time you looked away. It’s a possibility, but an unlikely one.
With all that said, there are concerns, and Microsoft needs to address them. When the Kinect is disabled, is it truly off? Can both the microphone and the camera be turned off? What happens if I throw a little blanket over the camera? Will anything be done with data mining? Who will have access to our information?
There are concerns that need Microsoft’s attention, but a fear graphic (is that a thing?) like this full of half truths doesn’t help the situation. And don’t forget, Sony’s system most likely comes with a camera, too, and so does the Wii U.
As IGN’s Brian Altano said in this video, “Just explain it, Microsoft; because if you don’t, we’ll make stuff up!”