Could Video Games Surveillance Be Next on the NSA's List of Probing?

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    (Photo: Reuters)
    Xbox One Console
By Justin Sarachik , Christian Post Reporter
July 25, 2013|4:00 pm

With all the talk of the NSA's surveillance of electronic devices, the forgotten technology that could be used as an alternative is video game consoles.

While the current generation of video game consoles may be coming to an end, it's the new systems that will have the capabilities to have possible surveillance and privacy issues.

"Video game consoles pose problems akin to those of mobile phones because users often have very little visibility into what the devices are doing and very little control over the software running on the devices," said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an email to NBC News.

The Xbox One will come with the Kinect, which is a motion sensing addition to the console. It will be able to sense a users movement, voice, and even heart rate.

"They increasingly have audio and video sensors watching what goes on in people's living rooms," continued Schoen. "And we know that governments have been discussing the idea of being able to tap in-game conversations for years, in keeping with the pattern of trying to develop the ability to spy on each and every communications medium."

Similarly, PS4's motion sensor is called Move, and will function much the same way as Kinect. The PlayStation Network will also be integrating with Facebook and gearing itself to know the user by knowing the personal preferences. It will make suggestions based on data it collects from the person who owns the console.

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Microsoft had an answer for those wondering whether their console always being on and connected to the Internet would share private data. A spokesperson from Xbox One told NBC News the user was in charge.

"With Xbox One and Kinect, the user knows when the camera or mic is on, the user has the ability to turn them off, and when it comes to the raw data produced by Kinect, the user controls whether it is shared with Microsoft," the rep said.

An technologist from the American Civil Liberties Union, Christopher Soghoian, feels differently.

"Putting a camera on a toaster isn't as much of a concern because you tend to not make food naked for the simple reason that hot oil and nudity don't go well together. The only other place that's more compromising is the bathroom," he said to NBC regarding the Kinect and PS4 being in people's bedrooms and living rooms.

Soghoian feels a simple solution for the gaming companies is to put a light on the consoles that indicate when the system is on, and functioning.

"There's a difference between a software warning and a hardware one," Soghoian said. "A software warning can lie to you, a hardware one cannot."

Follow Justin on Twitter - @JSarachik_BRMag
 

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