Kinect Privacy Debate

Kinect Privacy Debate - George Orwell all over again?

The possibilities for Kinect are not just in Kinect Games, but go way beyond gaming. Kinect offers unique personalized marketing opportunities. However, with technological advancements that offer personalized marketing opportunities you’re bound to have a debate about privacy as well. Some not concerned about privacy at all, while others believe that there’s no greater good than your own space where no one watches. As far as Kinect is concerned, this post discusses: what Microsoft had to say about Kinect‘s advertising potential and Kinect Privacy. Moreover, the future of Kinect and Privacy issues will be delineated.

Kinect Advertising Opportunity

Here’s what SeattlePie heard from a question answered by Dennis Durkin, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief operating and financial officer of the Interactive Entertainment Business. At the BMO Digital Entertainment Investor Conference in New York, he responded to a question about Microsoft’s ability gather data on its Xbox customers.

Kinect actually brings a really interesting opportunity as it relates to (customer data), because obviously with Kinect when you stand in front of it, it has face recognition, voice recognition. We can cater what content gets presented to you based on who you are. So your wife, in the future, may get a different set of content choices than you because we have a smart device that knows that your preferences are different than hers.

So, there you have it. Kinect offers unique marketing opportunities, as it has the potential to know so much about us: What do you do when you’re in the living room? How often do you watch television? Do you have a lot of friends? Looks and may be harmless, but this information gives companies the ability to tailor products to specific users and may better connect advertisements with Kinect‘s users. For some, this is ideal as they are waiting for that one advertisement for a product that they have been looking for! However, what if you don’t want that information to be used for advertisements? Then you may wonder: Where’s my privacy with Kinect? What gives them the right to invade my home and use it to sell products?


Wikipedia defines privacy as: “the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.” I feel selectively is the interesting part here, but will come back to this later on.

Anwyays, SeattlePie’s article forced Microsoft to make an official statement about the privacy of us being at stake with Kinect:

Xbox 360 and Xbox Live do not use any information captured by Kinect for advertising targeting purposes. Microsoft has a strong track record of implementing some of the best privacy protection measures in the industry. We place great importance on the privacy of our customers’ information and the safety of their experiences.

So, does this stop the privacy debate for ever? No, not necessarily. Some may be afraid of hackers that can watch them constantly in their living room with Kinect, others may feel Microsoft is not fully telling the truth. See my view on Kinect’s Privacy below for some solutions if you are afraid your privacy is at stake with Kinect.

Kinect’s Privacy in the future

Kinect will be used for personalized advertising in the future. Why? Because customers, advertisers and producers want it. Why? Customers: they want products tailored to their needs. Producers: they want customers that are happy about their products and spread the message. Advertisers: they want customers and producers to be a perfect match. But, if that’s the future, then what is the value of the privacy statement done by Microsoft? Well, Wikipedia’s definition clearly states that privacy is about selectivity, advertisers then think: power to the consumer! So, you as a consumer may decide whether or not you want to participate in a advertising program that gives you some benefits (better advertisements, a discount on products and Xbox Live Gold for example), but you accept the fact that Microsoft gets access to your living room. This is called permission based marketing and it is right around the corner with Kinect, but not without your consent.

My view on Kinect’s Privacy

In my view, the privacy debate is not new. Kinect is, and it is a perfect opportunity to discuss what our privacy boundaries are as it offers unique capabilities that other devices in our house do not offer. For those afraid of Kinect and it’s privacy invasion capabilities, I’ve got the following advice: the best solution would be to never ever buy it. Another way of surely preventing people from outside of your living room picking up on things you do in your living room (and a little less restrictive) via Kinect, may be to disconnect your Xbox 360 from the Internet when you play with Kinect so it cannot send out the pictures.

My view is that there are privacy choices with Kinect: you don’t have to use Kinect, you don’t have to connect it to the internet and you don’t need to put it in a room where you usually do your regular stuff. However, these may not necessarily be what you want to hear when you want to Kinect with your friends over Xbox Live. For you Kinect Gamers out there I’ve got the following message: Microsoft cannot ever afford to be seen as a company that doesn’t care about privacy – don’t forget about that. Whenever there will be a news item on: “Microsoft abuses customer’s trust via ‘harmless’ Kinect”, then this may mean the end of Kinect and Microsoft – a risk Microsoft is undoubtedly not willing to take. Permission based advertising does not have that problem as you give Microsoft permission to see what you do: selectively.

Finally, although Kinect is unique, but not necessarily unique in the privacy debate: people that fear being watched by the government (as in George Orwell’s 1984) can also be watched by cellphones, TVs and their Internet and Facebook account. Kinect is just another means if you fear such a scenario.

If you consider buying a Kinect, then try here.

Are you afraid for government control through technological advances like Kinect or do you think that people that are afraid of such scenarios are just paranoid?

Sources: Wikipedia, SeattlePie