Okay guys, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m an IT Specialist with the US Army and I’m going to touch on some of the finer points of our laws surrounding privacy, and specifically, how easily we can lose those rights.
Xbox One has announced that their Kinect system for the new console will always be on. Always be watching, and always be listening. This means a few things. Convenience, sure. “Xbox - On.” but is that worth not picking up your controller and hitting the center button? We’re all about to pick up that controller anyways. They’ve used examples like licensing fees. If four people are watching a movie, and a fifth person joins (picked up by facial software, so watch big paintings, or T-shirts with faces on them) then the movie stops, and you get charged a fee to continue the movie. Home viewing is defined as four persons or fewer, and so they’ve found a way to enforce this standard. This sounds crazy, right? Let me say, this is a pebble in the pond compared to what some of the bigger issues at stake are.
They’ve mentioned the possibility of using Kinect to help law enforcement. This means if they’re looking for a person. A fugitive, they can tap into the kinect camera of that person’s friends and family members, listen in on their conversations, and track that person down. But they can’t do that. We all have a right to privacy, according to the Privacy Act of 1974, which is one of the heaviest hitters defending our rights on the internet, and specifically in the workplace and home. This is what defends us when we’re brought up on trial and they use internet resources to gain access to personal and private information without a warrant.
The Privacy Act of 1974 states that we have a right to privacy at home and work. Let me touch on that for a moment. These are not separate, because work and home are often hard to define. Sometimes we work at home and sometimes we live at work, so it’s one big category. Now, in the case (and many many subsequent and prior cases) United States v. Slanina, A precedent formed. That protection under the privacy act would only be afforded if a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy could be assumed. It’s defined as “The person in question having an honest subjective expectation of privacy, and that this expectation would be one supported by his peers in a court of law” So the jury decides if one was right in their expectation.
All of this boils down to: In workplace or home, any information can be deemed property of the information manager as long as a release is signed. By agreeing to a release, you forfeit any reasonable expectation of privacy, and agree to the network or server manager to become owner of the information.
So, all Microsoft has to do is have a little “I agree to these terms” which you’ll never read and you forfeit all of your rights to privacy to a camera that is literally always watching and a microphone that is literally always listening. Smoke some weed? They could call the police on you, you agreed to be monitored. Have a friend commit a crime? They might be watching a live feed 24/7 of your living room to see if he strolls in at some point. In fact, unplugging your Xbox the same day he becomes a fugitive MIGHT EVEN BE ENOUGH FOR A WARRANT
Now I guarantee you will not have access to these terms before purchasing this product, so please, heed my words. Wait. Keep an eye out online. Someone will post it. Hell, I might go and buy one just to post the terms. And please, if you plan to use this product. Know what you’re signing yourself up for.
They might realize no one will buy a product that gives up their privacy, and they might change it. These things may never show up in the terms and conditions at all. But you have the right to know, no only before you plug in the Xbox, but before you even buy the thing.
Let microsoft know how you feel. Send them an email, write them a letter. Don’t use caps, and don’t curse, but be blunt. Let them know you will never give up your privacy for a cheap thrill, and don’t think just not buying the product is enough for your voice to be heard.