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Jun 6 / Great Apes

What Does the Xbox One Have To Do With Government Surveillance?

Microsoft has recently revealed that they will be releasing a new video game console, the Xbox One, later this year.  One of the key features of the Xbox One is that comes with a new version of their Kinect camera (which has a microphone built in).  The console/Kinect are capable of transmitting data over the Internet, and the console must connect to the Internet at least occasionally in order to operate.  While Microsoft has said that the Kinect can be turned off (though it hasn’t specified how or to what degree), it does need to be physically plugged into the Xbox One in order for the console to operate.  Regardless of whether or not the camera is turned on by the user, if the PC/laptop world is any indication, this won’t matter and the camera may be hackable even if the user has turned it off.

It was revealed earlier this evening that Microsoft (among a number of the world’s largest Internet companies) provides direct access to its services to the National Security Agency in order to spy on both Americans and foreign citizens.  This includes the ability to access chat, video, voice, images, and a whole host of other information.  That is to say, precisely the kind of information that the Kinect is designed to capture and transmit.  This creates the suddenly very plausible scenario that the NSA or some other law enforcement agency in the U.S. could get direct access to a live video and audio feed of your living room (or wherever your Xbox One and TV are located) without you having any idea that it is doing so and with no resistance from Microsoft.  (If you don’t think this kind of thing is plausible, you should read the Guardian article I linked earlier in this paragraph.)

This is, to put it mildly, extremely concerning.

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