Congressmen Propose ‘We Are Watching You Act’ Extends To Xbox One’s Kinect

DVR-We-Are-Watching-You-Law

Update: We’ve received word directly from Rep. Capuano’s office. Their verbatim statement follows,

“The “We are Watching You” Act would apply to ANY video service that records and stores users’ personal data without prior consent from the consumer. It does not prohibit the development or implementation of the technology, it simply requires manufacturers to inform consumers beforehand and to tell them what they are doing with the information.”

It’s unclear whether Microsoft would be required to display the “We are Watching You” message, due to the fact that consumers are already aware that Kinect is going to record and store user data. With that in mind, it’s still a bit fuzzy as to WHEN the Kinect will be recording, so this may pertain to Xbox One after all.

Original Story: Two U.S. congressmen, from different parties propose the ‘We Are Watching You Act‘. A legislation that would give consumers the right to say no to features like the Xbox One‘s nearly always on Kinect device. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) are filing this act in response to reports that Verizon’s FiOS and Microsoft’s Xbox One Kinect sensor will literally record consumer behavior while viewing media. Congressman Capuano has stated:

“This may sound preposterous but it is neither a joke nor an exaggeration. These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy. Given what we have recently learned about the access that the government has to the phone numbers we call, the emails we send and the websites we visit, it is important for consumers to decide for themselves whether they want this technology. Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers and your government,”

 

“Allowing this type of technology to be installed in the homes of individuals without their consent would be an egregious invasion of privacy,” said Congressman Jones. “When the government has an unfortunate history of secretly collecting private citizens’ information from technology providers, we must ensure that safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ rights”

The patent states that specific DVR devices (like Kinect) would utilize technology such as infrared cameras and microphones embedded in DVRs and cable boxes to detect a range of interactions such as:

interaction between the user and another user” which are described as “at least one of cuddling, fighting, participating in a game or sporting event, and talking”

The gist of the legislation states that these types of features aren’t to be used without consumer authorization. Basically we’d need to ‘opt-in’ to these types of applications. The information gathered by this type of monitoring service would be used to hyper-advertise to consumers. Say you and your significant other can’t decide where to dine, with this type of ‘big brother’ monitoring you may be directed to highly rated nearby restaurants via adverts. Having an argument? Well here’s a great couples therapist. That sort of application seems to infringe upon one’s privacy at the highest level. The bill wouldn’t stop these types of devices from being manufactured, it would simply lay down ground rules prior to them being made available to consumers.

The legislation doesn’t refer directly to the Xbox One’s required Kinect peripheral, but it describes the device almost verbatim. The ramifications that this bill would have on Microsoft could be devastating. We’ve reached out to Representative Capuano for further clarification on whether, or not this bill would affect Microsoft’s upcoming hardware release.

What do you think? Does this sound like necessary legislation in light of recent revelations that we’re being monitored more than we’d ever know?

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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