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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.

Some games (such as Xbox Fitness) will also store fitness information on the console. You'll have the option of providing height, weight, age, and gender to improve Xbox Fitness and its estimates of your heart rate, but that information won't be shared with other Xbox users unless you allow it.

Finally, there's the option to turn the Kinect on or off by using the "Kinect Off" command, or else a similar "Xbox On/Off" command. Microsoft's said before that the Kinect sensor could be turned off, but how it's doing it is new.

Xbox Music/Video/TV: Microsoft may display reocmmandations based on the content you play. It may send your device IP address, device software version, your regional and language settings, and an identifier for the content back up to Microsoft. It's not quite clear what that ID will reveal about the source of those "shared" MP3s you acquired way back in the day. What you watch on television may be shared with your friends, but Microsoft won't collect this information for teens and children.

GameDVR: You can choose to record a gamesplay session and share it; not surprisingly, someone else can record your multiplayer game, too.

Xbox on Windows Phone: Your location may occasionally be stored. "For example, games may use your location to award an achievement based on the distance traveled between game sessions," Microsoft says.

SmartGlass: Microsoft's "second-screen" SmartGlass app may pass along what games you're using SmartGlass in conjunction wiith.

Xbox Social: This catchall term basically tells you that your Xbox Live gamertag will be shared with others, as well as any high scores. Achievements—accomplishing something cool—will be shared, while "Magic Moments" (such as a perfect dance routine) will only be shared if your privacy control allows it.

Is there anything to be worried about?

While the amount of data that Microsoft is collecting is a little shocking, much of it seems like a natural offshoot of your normal interactions with its products and services. Nevertheless, you're still "paying" above and beyond the $60 or so Microsoft and its partners will charge per game.

Still, some of you will never be satisfied. If you're worried, for example, about the NSA peering over Microsoft's virtual shoulder, consider a more drastic step: unplugging it when not in use. Or try wearing a mask.


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