But You Can Always Remove the Power Cord

Creepy stuff about the Xbox One and its always-on Kinect camera:

The company told us that the Kinect’s cameras and microphones aren’t actually recording or transmitting any audio or video data back to Microsoft’s servers without the user’s explicit consent, and all ambiently collected data is anonymized. While some voice commands are processed at Microsoft’s servers, they’re converted to text before they ever leave the machine, and biometric data is translated into numerical values that simply indicate, say, where a player’s limbs are during online multiplayer games.

“We aren’t using Kinect to snoop on anybody at all,” said Microsoft’s Phil Harrison.

But would Microsoft be willing to help the government snoop? That’s a good question. Last week, a report in The Guardian alleged that Microsoft gave government agencies access to private Skype video and audio calls, perhaps even going so far as to integrate Skype into the NSA’s controversial PRISM surveillance system.

Not unlike Kinect, Skype had assured its users that wiretaps were technically impossible.

I was — and still am — impressed with Microsoft’s execution of the new Xbox hardware, and with its new vision of what a console is for. But in light of last week’s revelations about Skype, I’m having some serious second thoughts.