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Xbox One “Won’t Insist On Spying On You 24/7 After All”


The latest desperate U-turn Microsoft has been forced into in an effort to rescue the Xbox One launch is to rescind its insistence that the console’s camera and microphone be connected at all times for it to work, perhaps in recognition of the fact nobody in their right mind would trust a US company not to turn the entire system over to the NSA as soon as it was launched…

Microsoft bravely tried to put a positive spin on their latest climbdown, with chief platform architect Marc Whitten burying the admission at the end of a long waffle about the power of Kinect and making no mention of just why anyone would want to disable such an amazing feature:

Since Kinect must be plugged in for the Xbox One to function, what happens if your Kinect breaks? Like if it falls off the top of your TV onto a hardwood floor or something? Will the console cease to function?

WHITTEN: Xbox One is designed to work with Kinect plugged in.

It makes gaming better in many ways – from the ability to say “Xbox On” and get right to your personalized homescreen, to the ability to control your TV through voice, Smartglass and more.

Kinect allows you to search for your content, instantly move between games and your personalized dash and more with just your voice.

Kinect helps you pick up and play by automatically knowing which controller you have in your hands.

No more need to interrupt your friends game or navigate through multiple UI screens to sign in and tell the system which controller you are holding.

It will even bind the controller to the console if its currently unbound – no searching for special buttons!

Of course – these are just a few of the system wide benefits of having Kinect. Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways from adding voice to control your squad mates to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller to full immersive gameplay.

That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.

How “off” can Kinect be when the system is in use?

WHITTEN: You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information.

Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode.

You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.

Buyers will of course still have no option but to buy the console with Kinect included whether they want it or not.

Particularly in light of recent revelations about the level of spying US secret police engage in and the eagerness with which liberty-loving American industry secretly collaborates with their schemes, the prospect of allowing an always-on, Internet-connected and Microsoft-secured array of cameras and microphones into homes the world over has become an increasingly disquieting prospect for many.

Unfortunately, there are still no assurances as to what information the console’s sensors will collect anyway when they are connected, but at least those willing to risk owning it will have some ability to limit their exposure.

Microsoft’s evident concerns about an overly spectacular failure for the console have now resulted in it conceding everything from region lockouts to second-hand games – although each one seems only to have highlighted just how half-baked their omission was to begin with, and few seem to be convinced by the restoration of “features” which should have been present in the first place.

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