Microsoft Shoots Down Government Spying Claims, Fails To Mention Xbox One Or Kinect

By William Usher 2013-07-19 17:53:33 discussion comments
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The Guardian did a full blown report on Microsoft and the NSA, detailing how users are vulnerable to monitoring via Skype, Hotmail and Outlook. Well, Microsoft was having none of that and says that everything in the report is wrong and they would never allow the NSA to spy on you. Except, the NSA already has.

The Official Xbox Magazine comes to Microsoft's rescue, though, pinpointing various quotes from the mini 'M' to wipe clean the slate of their now tarnished name and the infamy of the public view on the Xbox One's Kinect, which is viewed by many as a surveillance device.

According to a very detailed blog post by Microsoft's General Counsel & Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs, Brad Smith...
“...when governments seek information from Microsoft relating to customers, we strive to be principled, limited in what we disclose, and committed to transparency.”

“We only respond to requests for specific accounts and identifiers. There is no blanket or indiscriminate access to Microsoft’s customer data. The aggregate data we have been able to publish shows clearly that only a tiny fraction – fractions of a percent – of our customers have ever been subject to a government demand related to criminal law or national security.”

If you read through the entire blog it makes full-on mention of Skype, Skype Calls, Skydrive, Hotmail and Outlook but doesn't mention one iota of information about privacy protection regarding the Xbox One, which is, presumably, the hottest privacy invasion topic circulating the tech block when people think PRISM and Microsoft.

Throughout the very thorough and legally competent blog post we get a lot of corporate-quality assurances about protecting your data, privacy and identity, but none of the statements seem to be at least present or forward looking towards the Xbox One and Kinect 2.0.

The only thing that was mentioned about Xbox One and Kinect being spy devices was Phil Harrison's comment back in May to The Verge about the Xbox One and Kinect not being spy devices. But really? Is that it?

Perhaps, I guess they assume most people accept that a defaulted always-connected Kinect with a camera and microphone will be eligible to scrutiny and observation from whatever Government agency deems it fit to use for their data pooling purposes.

One of the interesting things that Smith blatantly points out in regards to feeding agencies data about their customers or users is that...
Cutting through the technical details, all of the information in the recent leaked government documents adds up to two things. First, while we did discuss legal compliance requirements with the government as reported last week, in none of these discussions did Microsoft provide or agree to provide any government with direct access to user content or the ability to break our encryption. Second, these discussions were instead about how Microsoft would meet its continuing obligation to comply with the law by providing specific information in response to lawful government orders.

Smith also goes on to talk about how it's not just the U.S. Government that Microsoft must comply to regarding user data and privacy concerns, but the Governments of any and every country out there who makes user data examination a national security concern.

Again, for anyone purchasing an Xbox One, which comes standard with Kinect 2.0, it would seem a bit worrying that with the recently posted blog post, there's no mention about privacy protection and safeguards for a device that requires a few hoops to jump through to completely disengage and keep offline while using the multimedia device.

I imagine Smith or someone of similar ilk will do a separate post during the approaching holiday season about the Kinect and Xbox One. That is, assuming most pro-Microsoft sites like OXM don't go ahead and use the Xbox One's FAQ as some omnipotent guideline that protects your privacy and try to encourage sheeple and lemmings into believing that corporate PR speak is law.

(Main image courtesy of Leviathyn)
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