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What data does Microsoft's Xbox services collect? We break it down

Mark Hachman | Nov. 5, 2013
Ever since a Microsoft executive turned on the Xbox One with a voice command--"Xbox on"--potential customers have wondered what Microsoft's new console will see hear, and report back to Redmond.

Ever since a Microsoft executive turned on the Xbox One with a voice command—"Xbox on"—potential customers have wondered what Microsoft's new console will see hear, and report back to Redmond.

On Thursday night, Microsoft filed an updated privacy policy that lays it all out—in the sort of exhaustive detail that typifies a legal document. We've dug through it and tried to summarize the most relevant bits.

What's new? Microsoft offers more information on how the Xbox One's Kinect sensor uses your data, plus an explicit "Kinect Off" command in case you want to be sure the console's camera isn't watching you. And there's an explicit warning that anything you say during a multiplayer session may be heard by other players. (Well, duh.)

The bottom line: how Microsoft uses your data appears reasonable, at least to us. And at the time we wrote this, of course.

How old do you have to be to use Xbox services?

Kids under 13 are not allowed on the Xbox services without a parent's permission. Kids under 17 can't create an account without a parent's permission.

What information does Microsoft collect on signup?

Singing up for a Microsoft Xbox account requires four pieces of information: gender, country, birthdate, and postal code. You'll also need to provide an email account where Microsoft can contact you, although any email will do.

When you sign in, however, Microsoft also collects a bit more: your IP address, your web browser version, and a time and date. Further, if you use a Microsoft account to sign into a device or into software that is installed on a device, a random unique ID is assigned to the device. None of this data is assigned to you, meaning you as a distinct person. Not surprisingly, it's all used to create a profile that Microsoft can sell to advertisers, who will send you personalized ads.

Apps that allow you to sign in with your Microsoft account can share that email and unique ID with other services. That unique (though anonymous) ID can only be used to complete a business transaction, though.

What information does Microsoft collect as you use its services?

Whew. Quite a bit, basically. But this should be what you'd expect Microsoft would know about as you used its services.

Once you log on and start playing games on the Xbox, Microsoft collects information regarding the number of times you sign into and sign off, games you have played, and game-score statistics. Also, Microsoft will pull Xbox console hardware and operating performance data, manufacturing codes from game discs, network performance data, and data that indicates the quality of the Xbox service itself. And, to prevent cheating, Microsoft reserves the right to collect your IP address, operating system, and Xbox Live software version. If you use Bing for searches, expect Microsoft to not only record search terms, but also samples of any voice commands you used to perform the search. This is all used to improve your experience, according to Microsoft.


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