...and we can hear you!
Last year, the internet erupted into a white-hot ragestorm when Microsoft revealed that Kinect would quietly listen to everything you say, like a futuristic surveillance device poised to relay your everyday life directly to security agencies. The hot-button topic launched a thousand angry threads, with users terrified of the potential breach of privacy. Then the console launched, and as always, we meekly forgot all about it.
However, I'm here to remind you that Kinect is still listening... and it's a bigger issue than you thought. That microphone is indeed snooping on everything said in your living room, and is automatically transmitting directly to a third party who can hear every unguarded utterance, free to use your personal information for nefarious ends.
So who is this shadowy spymaster prying into your private lives? No, it's not the NSA. No, it's not GCHQ. Or the KGB. Or SPECTRE. Let's bust this conspiracy wide open.
It's ME, yes, Jonathan Lester, who's at the heart of this massive surveillance operation. Or more accurately: everyone on your multiplayer team. By default, Kinect is your chat microphone when playing online, meaning that you really, really need to watch what you say to avoid broadcasting far Too Much Information.
I'm amazed at how many Xbox One owners still don't know that Kinect will transmit anything anyone says in your lounge to all players on the multiplayer server, unless you disable it in the settings menu. To illustrate this, I've been playing a lot of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare over the last fortnight, and want to give you a sampler of some of the stuff I've witnessed over just this short period. Seriously: I've heard some sh*t.
Dan from the North East: I can remember the first line of your address -- and if I put my mind to it, your debit card's security code -- because you decided to order a pizza over the phone in the middle of a match. I was tempted to order one myself, frankly. Even if you weren't playing the game yourself, you were in the room, so every word (and number... and expiry date... and CVV...) was broadcasted live to me and eleven other players.
Sam and Andy: stop being so stupid. Don't make up rumours about girls on Facebook. It'll bite you in the ass eventually. This odd little soap opera even continued after I warned them that everyone could hear them - you're just embarrassing yourselves, guys. Also, perhaps you should have been using your free Sunday to do some homework, kids.
And to a certain American couple: I hope you work out your problems... but seriously fella, when your significant other broaches important issues like this, the worst thing you can do is keep playing a videogame rather than sitting down and talking things out. Come on, pal. Not only does she deserve better, but WE DON'T NEED TO HEAR IT.
Which is rather the point. Even if you luck out and you're playing with sportsmanlike fellow gamers who'll just mute you rather than running up bills on your debit card (thanks again for the pizza, Dan... maybe), it's just not appropriate to broadcast your personal life over unregulated VOIP. It's a breach of privacy as far as you're concerned, and a massive breach of online etiquette as far as everyone else goes.
There are two simple ways to address this issue. First of all, you can just say "Xbox, go to settings," untoggle Kinect chat and plug in the included headset. Yes, it's not particularly well made and is rather uncomfortable for long stints, but at least you'll be able to keep the channel clear; broadcasting what you want to be heard, and nothing more.
But, perhaps most importantly of all, just be more careful about what you broadcast onto the internet, and be aware that there's such a thing as Too Much Information.