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Xbox One owners: Kinect is still spying on everything you say...

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Kinect, Xbox One

Xbox One owners: Kinect is still spying on everything you say...

...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.

Xbox One owners: Kinect is still spying on everything you say...

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.

Xbox One owners: Kinect is still spying on everything you say...

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.

Xbox One owners: Kinect is still spying on everything you say...

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.

Add a comment15 comments
sidnis  Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:36

Misleading headline....

Any reason why you don't mention the PS EYE PS4 camera is also ALWAYS ON unless you turn it off exactly the same as Kinect?.

And come to think of it why not also mention that half the Android apps you install ask you to allow them to use your mic (if you refuse then it won't install), despite the fact that the app will usually have no need for the mic for what the user uses the app for..

Last edited by sidnis, Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:41
stevenjameshyde  Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:46


Any reason why you don't mention the PS EYE PS4 camera is also ALWAYS ON unless you turn it off exactly the same as Kinect?.

Because only about twelve people own one?

Yes, the headline is hyperbolic, but it does its job by getting people to read an article that contains a pretty serious message. The debit card things is scary

Breadster  Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:47

It's like this with the playstation camera as well. I don't need to hear another set of distorted gunshots and explosions over the actual sfx, it's so annoying. It's even worse on BF4 where 1. the sound effects are incredibly loud and 2. sometimes you can hear people even when you're in a party chat. It seems to be a bug with BF4 (shocking I know) as I haven't noticed it on other games.

It should be disabled by default.

JonLester  Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:47

@sidnis: This is a PSA for Xbox One owners who aren't aware of the default voice chat settings. I freely admit that I had some fun with the title and first few paragraphs, but this was due to my sense of theatre.

"Any reason why you don't mention the PS EYE PS4 camera is also ALWAYS ON unless you turn it off exactly the same as Kinect?."

Because this is an article about the Xbox One based on my personal experiences. o_O

Last edited by JonLester, Mar. 10, 2014 at 13:11
JonLester  Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:52

@Breadster: "It should be disabled by default."

Yes, probably - or at the very least covered very clearly during initial console setup. I'd like games to make a bigger deal out of it too, even if it's just including reminders in loading screen tips.

Last edited by JonLester, Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:57
Tsung  Mar. 10, 2014 at 13:27

One of my pet hates about online gaming is voice comms on by default. Regardless of system (Pc/Xbox/PS4) it should never be set that way. Why should I have to constantly mute people due to their inconsiderate noise and/or musical taste?.

I think developers are too isolated from the real-world. Sure when there is a small group of like-minded developer/friends playing a game I wouldn't see a reason for turning off voice comms. Sadly once that game gets out into the real world, the number of noise numpties increase and everybody else have to reach for the mute button.

I have a great idea, have it switched on by default (if you must) but have a report button for inconsiderate abusers. If they get enough reports they get auto-muted, anyone wanting to listen to their insane ramblings/music can un-mute them.

Last edited by Tsung, Mar. 10, 2014 at 13:31
googleberry  Mar. 10, 2014 at 14:42

Stating the obvious I know:

1. we should all be wary of being snooped as what's legal and acceptable is ever changing, so what you say or do, legal as it may be now may not be in the future.

2. What the state deems to be legal and acceptable is a commonly accepted dogma, and may not deserve to be respected by the citizenship. To take some historical examples: homosexuality, women's vote, legally enforced racist laws etc.

Whatever the context, we should be smart about how much we share with bodies, institutions and individuals whose intent we do not know or understand.

Last edited by googleberry, Mar. 10, 2014 at 14:42
DumbassSonyFanboy  Mar. 11, 2014 at 13:04

Faggots still bitch about this? We live in a world surrounded by camera's, and microphones, especially in cell phones all over the world (not the couple million Kinect sensors), and still Kinect is the problem? Sony fanboy is obvious. Keep pretending it's a problem, or like someone would want to listen to your dumb ass anyways. You're a retarded conspiracy theorist, and a joke to society.

The PS camera does the exact same ****, but Kinect is the problem? Get bent, better yet, drink copious amounts of bleach.

ForCoughsAndForColds  Mar. 11, 2014 at 13:16

Faggots still bitch about this? We live in a world surrounded by camera's, and microphones, especially in cell phones all over the world (not the couple million Kinect sensors), and still Kinect is the problem? Sony fanboy is obvious. Keep pretending it's a problem, or like someone would want to listen to your dumb ass anyways. You're a retarded conspiracy theorist, and a joke to society.

The PS camera does the exact same ****, but Kinect is the problem? Get bent, better yet, drink copious amounts of bleach.


Hahahahaha, you fool. How many people actually go out and buy the Playstation camera? and weren't all XBox One's shipped WITH Kinect 2? Get educated, BumBox fanboy

JonLester  Mar. 11, 2014 at 13:27

We live in a world surrounded by camera's, and microphones, especially in cell phones all over the world (not the couple million Kinect sensors), and still Kinect is the problem? Sony fanboy is obvious. Keep pretending it's a problem, or like someone would want to listen to your dumb ass anyways. You're a retarded conspiracy theorist, and a joke to society.

The PS camera does the exact same ****, but Kinect is the problem? Get bent, better yet, drink copious amounts of bleach.


This article is a tongue in-cheek PSA about online etiquette and Kinect chat privacy. You'd have known that if you'd bothered to actually read it.

EDIT: Ah, I see, it has been posted on N4G without proper context. I suppose a few angry knee-jerk comments are to be expected.

Last edited by JonLester, Mar. 11, 2014 at 14:52
RebelWAC  Mar. 11, 2014 at 14:09

Very good and informative article that goes for both Xbox One and Ps4 owners. Thanks for the read.

Breadster  Mar. 11, 2014 at 14:23

The article isn't a dig at Kinect, it's warning people that they could well be sharing private information (such as credit card details) with other people in online games without realising it.

You obviously haven't read the article, just a satirical headline that seems to say something negative about Kinect and then you've cried about it. Or you're just straight up trolling, which is just as sad.

dox720  Mar. 11, 2014 at 19:49

During setup the Xbox clearly says it uses the kinect for game chat and would you like to disable it.

On a side not it does an amazing job of filtering out game audio. Some of my friends use it and I never hear game audio which is nice.

spider22  Apr. 25, 2014 at 20:29

the xboxone is a good consall but is not good for hacker but xboxone kinect is crap

danthepizzaman  Jul. 15, 2014 at 03:51

What kind of **** orders a pizza in the middle of a multiplayer game?

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