Update: Microsoft has responded to our request for comment.

“Microsoft has never heard of this program," a Microsoft representative told us via email. "However, we’re concerned about any reports of governments surreptitiously collecting private customer data. That’s why in December we initiated a broad effort to expand encryption across our services and are advocating for legal reforms.”


Original Story:

New documents disclosed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden accuse the British Government of spying on Yahoo users through their webcams. The materials also suggest that the GCHQ, the UK’s surveillance agency, considered Microsoft’s Kinect for use in monitoring and would have had assistance from the NSA.

The interest in the Kinect stems from its capabilities to provide “fairly normal webcam traffic” according to the materials. The device was being considered for a wider surveillance program. There is no explicit mention that the Kinect was used in a program similar to the GCHQ’s monitoring of Yahoo users, which reportedly included 1.8 million users’ webcam chats in one six-month period in 2008. The documents directly referencing the program, "Optic Nerve," date from 2008 to 2010.

Gaming and privacy matters have intersected numerous times in recent months. Microsoft was criticized for the Xbox One’s required use of Kinect before that technology was altered. Additionally, reports surfaced that the NSA considered spying using Rovio’s Angry Birds on smartphones.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update should we receive a response.

[Source: The Guardian]


Our Take
Privacy issues aren’t about whether you are doing something you wouldn’t want the government seeing. They are about the government even having the ability to co-opt technology in your home to find out. In cases where surveillance is happening without cause or warrant, the contract between the people and those elected by them has been broken.