Late last month, Germany's federal data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, likened the Xbox One to a "monitoring device". Since revealing its new home console, Microsoft has attempted to allay fears from consumers that the unit may watch and listen to them at all times, saying it could be completely turned off. Today, the software giant revealed official information on how the device will operate, and what it will do with personal data.
The initial setup for the console will allow users to toggle whether they want to automatically sign in, and will provide the chance to customise their privacy settings. "When Xbox One is on and you're simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded," the FAQ page reads.
Users will be able to manually pause the Kinect as desired when playing games or viewing live television, but some features will need the system to work. When powered off, the console will activate only when hearing key terms. This feature can also be disabled completely.
"If you don't want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. To turn off your Xbox One, just say 'Xbox Off.' When the system is off, it's only listening for the single voice command--'Xbox On'--and you can even turn that feature off, too. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so you'll need to turn it back on for these experiences."
Microsoft also outlined two specific examples of the camera system collecting personal details. In one, your fitness workout could use the Kinect to track your heart rate and calories burned; while in the other, players may be able to use facial expressions to fool opponents while playing card games. The company stressed that all captured information would be under the control of the user.
"You can play games or enjoy applications that use data, such as videos, photos, facial expressions, heart rate, and more, but this data will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission."
Lastly, with the Kinect camera in a pause state, Microsoft claims that players will be able to take full control of the system using the standard Xbox controller, or a compatible mobile device.
"While it's faster to find what you're looking for using your voice and gesture commands with Kinect, you can use a controller, your remote controls, or your smart devices instead. And you can use all of these devices when Kinect is paused."