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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.

Microsoft may also collect information about what you watched using the Xbox One's television service, and what music and videos you watched or listened to using Xbox Live.

And if you actually use the Xbox One to play games, this next bit may come as a surprise: "If you participate in leaderboards, live-hosted gameplay, achievements, tournaments, and gamer-profile sharing, Microsoft and such partners as game publishers and service providers may collect, disclose and share your game scores; game play sessions; your presence on the Services; the time you spend on or within particular portions of the Services; portions of the Services that are displayed on your monitor or screen and the duration of that display; rankings, statistics, gamer profiles, avatars, and content that you may submit; and other usage information.  These may be provided with or without attribution to you, your gamertag or avatar."

Yikes.

How does Microsoft use all this data?

In a word, advertising. Naturally, Microsoft's advertisers will also add cookies to your computer or console.

"Microsoft provides many of our sites and services free of charge because they are supported by advertising," Microsoft's privacy policy states. "In order to make these services widely available, the information we collect may be used to help improve the advertisements you see by making them more relevant to you."

In general, Microsoft won't share this data to a third party without your consent. Some exceptions include law enforcement requests, mergers, and "to protect life and safety." And if you're concerned about what data the company is accessing (and what to change those options), you can always go to the My Account page.

What data does each Xbox service use?

Kinect: Xbox One's motion camera can log you in by recognizing your face. To do so, however, it "measures distances between key points on your face to create a numeric value that represents only you". For gameplay, Kinect will map distances between your body's joints to create a stick figure—a "skeleton"—whose data will be stored on your console, then destroyed at the end of the session.

Kinect is also aware of your expressions, which can be used to control a game. Like the skeleton, this data is stored locally, then destroyed at the end of your game. Some games will also photograph you. You can choose whether to keep the photos, share them, or erase them.

Microsoft does not record Skype calls. But Microsoft takes pains to note that your multiplayer sessions can be recorded. "You should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features such as voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions offered through the Services," Microsoft says. "We may monitor these communications to the extent permitted by law, but we cannot monitor the entire Service and make no attempt to do so.  You understand that others can record and use these communications. Communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions may also be broadcast to others."

 

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