When Microsoft first revealed the Xbox One in 2013, the plan was for the Kinect sensor to be a mandatory accessory that the system could not function without. Potential customers were concerned that such a requirement would allow others to listen in on their conversations, and according to contractors who have worked with Microsoft, that did happen despite the requirement being removed prior to launch.
According to Vice’s Motherboard website, when commands via the Xbox One’s voice controls were triggered accidentally, contractors at Microsoft wre able to hear them in their home — albeit briefly. Microsoft used the contractors in order to improve the features on Xbox One, but if one of the wake-up words was said without the user realizing it, the contractors could hear other chatter not meant for the Xbox One, including from children.
After our initial story was published, a Microsoft spokesperson reached out to Digital Trends and said that the company had “stopped reviewing any voice content taken through Xbox for product improvement purposes” several months ago, and it was not planning on resuming that in the future. The company now only reviews audio recordings when a report is filed against a user for violating the terms of service.
If you want to be well-protected against anyone listening to your voice, then we recommend sticking with the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the Wii U and 3DS, it doesn’t have a built-in microphone and the system requires a separate mobile app in order to chat online. This solution makes little sense for most players, who could instead just run Discord or a similar program from their phone.
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