Microsoft will "aggressively challenge" any government attempt to spy through Kinect
Microsoft's been in the news a fair bit lately on the strength of its supposed collaboration with the US National Security Agency - a Guardian report alleges that the latter is able to gather user data via Skype, Outlook and Hotmail with Microsoft's consent. The company has now released a formal statement on the matter, denying much of the report and calling on the US government to allow it "to share publicly more complete information about how we handle national security requests for customer information".
Microsoft has also rejected claims that it will allow the NSA to gather data via the Xbox One's Kinect sensor, which is required for the console to run. "Absent a new law, we don't believe the government has the legal authority to compel us or any other company that makes products with cameras and microphones to start collecting voice and video data," reads a comment mailed to the Verge. "And we'd aggressively challenge in court any attempts to try and force us to do so."
Kinect's always-on status is a source of concern among those who worry that it could be turned into a surveillance device, but Microsoft insists that appropriate safeguards in place. For one thing, Kinect can be set to an "off" state, wherein it'll listen out for the activation phrase "Xbox on", and features a power light, so you'll know when it's operational. For another, the Verge reports that data is "anonymised" before being sent to Microsoft's servers, and it'll only be sent on with your explicit consent. Voice commands are converted to text before leaving the console, and biometric data is translated into numerical values.
Microsoft's policy guidelines urge that "you are in control of your personal data" - there will be "clear notifications" about how that data is used, and you can of course opt out of any potential data-sharing scheme if you choose. If that's not enough, you can also set the device to be completely unaware and unresponsive (presumably, you'll need to navigate to the console's settings using the controller in order to reenable voice commands and motion recognition).
So Microsoft just admitted that it is possible for the Kinect to spy on people, but that they would "aggressively challenge" it if the Government wanted to do that.... Until the NSA comes a knocking with a general purpose FISA warrant or some similar and demand them to do something while forcing them to sign a gag order so Microsoft can't tell anybody.