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The Kinect is an interesting beast. When it was known as Project Natal it received a ton of praise for being a potential game-changer. It was both Microsoft's answer to the Wii-mote and an advancement for video game interactivity. Who knew that just a few years later – after a name-change and a few processor downgrades – the device once known as Natal would become a spy agency's wet dream in the form of Kinect?
Well, reality and privacy concerns are striking back hard against Microsoft's Kinect 2.0, after more leaked documents allege involvement of the Kinect with spying protocols from a British agency known as GCHQ. The documents were discussed in thorough detail in an article over on The Guardian, and they happened to include a mention about Kinect being part of a “wider program”.
Microsoft was reached by Eurogamer for a comment on the involvement of Kinect being used to spy on people, and here's what the Micro 'S' spokesperson had to say...
"Microsoft has never heard of this program," … "However, we're concerned about any reports of governments surreptitiously collecting private customer data. That's why in December we initiated a broad effort to expand encryption across our services and are advocating for legal reforms."
As noted by Eurogamer, Microsoft did make a public statement back in December, eschewing any correlation with data mining taking place by spy agencies, especially in regards to Kinect utilization.
Whether you trust Microsoft or not, Kinect has already been data mined and has been part of a long-running NSA program that utilized some of the advanced features of Kinect's camera to store and log biometric feedback data on users, as well as audio and chat logs, along with IP address information.
Ironically enough, when the new documents from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden appeared back in December that detailed how the NSA monitored games like World of Warcraft, services such as Xbox Live and devices like the Xbox Kinect, Britain's GCHQ put out a public-friendly PR response to assuage fears of snooping, writing...
"All GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Intelligence and Security Committee."
It's unbelievably ridiculous that the tides have turned and the GCHQ is now pooling data from the same sort of outlets as the NSA – and as mentioned in the original Guardian article – both agencies are sharing data from their collective sources, so one source gets double the eyes.
While Microsoft may be claiming that your data is protected and they have no part in whatever happens by whichever spy agency decides to pool data from one of their devices in your home, take note that just having Kinect in your home and plugged in automatically makes you a potential victim for digital privacy invasion.
It doesn't matter what kind of PR-friendly response an empathicless corporation throws out. Just keep in mind when you're Skyping or have the Kinect in view of whoever you have over or whatever you're doing in the living room in the after hours, there could be someone on the other end watching. Well, in the case of the NSA... there are people on the other end watching.