Microsoft’s Kinect technology might be in violation of proposed legislation from a pair of US politicians.
Massachusetts Democrat congressman Mike Capuano and North Carolina Republican congressman Walter Jones hope that their bill – titled “We Are Watching You” – will result in companies being forced to notify technology users whenever they are being recorded.
According to their application, the bill is a response to reports that national telecommunications companies are exploring technology for digital video recorders that will record the personal activities of consumers as they watch television from the privacy of their own homes.
It will not prohibit companies from developing such technology, but instead “lets consumers make their own decisions about whether or not it belongs in their homes”, it reads.
Should the bill pass, the operator of any such data-gathering technology will have to provide specific details on how collected information will be used, and who will have access to the data.
The bill will also compel those companies to display the words “we are watching you” on screen in capital letters that are “large enough to be readable from a distance” any time recording is taking place.
Further, if consumers opt out of the technology, companies are required to offer a video service that does not collect this information but is otherwise identical in all respects.
“This may sound preposterous but it is neither a joke nor an exaggeration,” said congressman Capuano.
“These DVRs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. It is an incredible invasion of privacy.”
Capuano urged people to think about how they would feel sharing information about what they do in the privacy of their own homes with their cable company, advertisers, and government.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
A new Kinect – sensitive enough to detect heartbeats – must be attached to Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One for the console to function, but Microsoft has been evasive about whether it needs to be switched on or not.
Earlier this month the company said the Kinect’s “always listening” function could be switched off and the device itself “paused” while the Xbox One was on.
“When Xbox One is on and you're simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded," it said.