Kinect for Xbox 360 privacy and online safety FAQ

Applies to: PrivacyXboxXbox 360

With Kinect for Xbox 360, you are the controller. Easy to use and instantly fun, Kinect gets your whole body in the game. Imagine controlling movies and music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice. With Kinect, technology evaporates, letting the natural magic in all of us shine. And the best part is Kinect works with every Xbox 360.
 
With new technology and innovations like Kinect, there will be questions about how that technology works and exactly what that technology does. Families and parents have questions about what safeguards are provided to help them manage their entertainment experiences and protect their privacy and online safety. As leaders in the video game industry, Microsoft is proud to have led the effort to create and build in safety and privacy measures, and today virtually all of Microsoft's consumer products feature family-safety features, including Kinect.
 
This guide will help answer those questions and show you how with Xbox 360 family settings, both for the console and Xbox Live, you are in control of what you and your children play, watch, browse, and share.
 
We also know that privacy is important to everyone, not just parents, and your privacy and ability to control what you share with others when using the Xbox Live service are of paramount importance to Microsoft. We take a holistic approach to privacy that starts with embedding privacy controls and safeguards in our products and services to help protect and manage information with greater confidence and safety. In addition to family-specific questions, we have provided a detailed set of questions and answers on what data is collected by the Kinect sensor and how it’s used.
 

Frequently asked questions

Topics

Family safety


What family settings do you provide to help me protect my child’s privacy and online safety?

Family safety is a very high priority for us, and there are several ways parents can help safeguard their child’s use of Xbox 360, Xbox Live, and Kinect. Xbox 360 and Xbox Live already provide parents with strong controls to manage their family’s gaming experiences, and we extend those controls to Kinect.

Family settings consists of two types of settings:

  • Console safety, where you can manage settings for all users of the console. Within the console, located at My Xbox > Family Settings, you can:
    • Decide what your kids can play, online and off. This includes content ratings for games, movies, and television shows.
    • Set a passkey to restrict who can change your family settings.
    • Set limits on console play time using the family timer.
  • Online safety, which is set for each individual Xbox Live profile. Parents, for example, can set controls for each child’s Xbox Live profile that are appropriate for their age and maturity level, including:
    • What activities your kids can participate in online, including multiplayer gaming, video chat, and voice or text messaging.
    • Who your kids can communicate with online.
    • Who can see your child’s profile or friends list, and what information they can see about others.

The Xbox Live sign-in is how each member of your family signs in to use Xbox Live. Online safety settings only apply when you or your child is using Xbox Live. If a child is a minor, parental permission is required for the child to obtain an Xbox Live account, and the online safety settings that you established during account creation are applied every time your child signs in to the service. 

Back to top

Data collection


What data does the Kinect sensor collect, and how is that information used by Microsoft?

Your privacy, and your ability to control what you and your family share with others when using the Xbox Live service, are of paramount importance to Microsoft. Read the Microsoft Privacy Statement to learn more about the types of data we collect, why and how we collect them, and what controls we provide so that you can protect your family’s privacy.

The Kinect sensor can collect four types of data:

  • Kinect performance data. This information helps us continuously improve Kinect performance. It does not personally identify you, and collection of this data cannot be disabled. As you play, we collect information on how your Kinect device and platform software are functioning, usage patterns within the Xbox dashboard applications, and other data that does not directly or personally identify you. We may analyze this performance data to ensure users are receiving the optimal game experience and to help improve Kinect games and the Xbox 360 platform. We may also share some of this aggregated data with companies that provide Kinect-enabled games, which will help them improve their product.
  • Data that enables gameplay. Kinect collects and uses body recognition data to enable you to control and play games. It does not personally identify you, and collection of this data cannot be disabled. We call this session data; it allows you to control Kinect games and is stored on your console’s memory only while you are playing a session of one or more games. One example is body recognition data, which allows you to control Kinect games but does not personally identify you, and when you turn off your console, it is deleted. This anonymous data, also known as Kinect performance data, may be returned to Microsoft for analysis but does not personally identify you.
  • Data used for sign-in. As an optional feature, Kinect can collect and use identity data to enable you to sign in to your gamer profile. This is mostly facial recognition data that identifies individual players. You can decide whether to use this feature, called Kinect ID, and control whether this data is collected. This data is stored permanently on your console to enable sign in to your gamer profile, and it is not returned to Microsoft. This information is stored as a long series of numbers, and it does not personally identify you.
  • Speech data, photos, and videos. Kinect can record speech data, photos, and videos, but you can control whether such data is collected using Xbox 360 family settings. Examples include:
    • Speech commands. Speech commands allow you to verbally control a Kinect experience. We only collect and store speech commands if you give us permission to do so.
    • Photographs that are taken of you during gameplay. They are initially stored on your console, or another location provided by a game publisher, and you decide whether to share them with others.

How do I turn the Kinect sensor off?

You can turn the Kinect sensor off by going to System Settings > Kinect Settings and choosing to turn the sensor OFF. The Kinect sensor hardware does not have a physical off switch. Alternatively, you can always unplug the Kinect sensor from the console when it’s not in use. When using the Kinect settings to turn the sensor off, all processors on the device that are used to stream audio, video, or depth data to the console are in fact turned off. 

How do I tell if the Kinect sensor is active?

The green light on the Kinect sensor will be on when it’s active and off when deactivated.

What data does Kinect collect when it is turned on but not being actively used as part of a Kinect experience?

Kinect does not collect information about you or your environment if you are not engaged in a Kinect experience (playing a Kinect game, using a Kinect-enabled application, or navigating the Xbox dashboard).

What data does Microsoft collect when I am playing third-party games that use the Kinect sensor?

The data that we obtain when you use third-party Kinect experiences (games or applications) is used to deliver and even improve that experience. Largely, it is aggregated, anonymous data generated while customers are engaged in the experience—for example, the length of time that a specific game was played. Game publishers may also receive your gamertag so it can be displayed to you and your gaming partners as part of gameplay and on leaderboards.

How do third-party partners use data collected while playing Kinect games?

Third-party partners use aggregated data to deliver Kinect experiences (games or applications), to understand how customers use their Kinect experiences and to improve performance or even to help plan new experiences. They are not permitted to use the information for marketing purposes, such as selling you games or services, or for personalizing advertising. Also, third-party partners are not allowed to collect player personal information without review and approval by Microsoft.

Where does Microsoft store data about me, and for how long?

Data collected through use of Kinect is stored on Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform for up to three months, after which it will be deleted. During that three-month period, the data will be held for analysis purposes. If chosen for analysis, the data will be rendered into an anonymous state before use.

Back to top

Identity


What data does Kinect ID use to identify me?

Kinect ID provides you with the option of signing in to your gamer profile using facial recognition technology. To do so, the Kinect camera collects information about your facial features in different poses and light conditions and stores that information on your console’s hard drive. It does not store exact details about your face like the color of your eyes, hair, or skin. If you choose to use Kinect ID to sign in to your gamer profile, Kinect looks at your face, and if it recognizes you, you will be signed in to your profile. It also allows you to join a game in progress and be signed in automatically. Kinect ID data is stored as a very long set of numbers, which can’t be transformed into a picture of a person. No one could look at the numbers and know they represent you or a family member.

What data does the Kinect sensor collect about my body and why? Can that information be used to personally identify me?

The Kinect sensor scans your body—we call it skeletal tracking—to facilitate gameplay. Skeletal tracking data is a representation of body joints—picture a stick figure—and cannot be used to personally identify you. This information that we call session data is held in temporary memory on the console and is only used to create the “stick figure” needed to track your movements. When you turn off your Xbox, the skeletal tracking information is deleted from temporary memory.

Back to top

Kinect Tuner


What is the Kinect Tuner and what does it tell Microsoft about me or my gameplay?

The Kinect Tuner is a system application that is launched from the Kinect guide/Kinect hub/regular guide/in-game menu to diagnose and fix problems with Kinect. You can launch it anytime from the Kinect guide, which means you don’t need to leave a Kinect experience to troubleshoot issues.

If your Kinect experience is paused due to a system issue, you’ll be prompted to use the Tuner, which is optional. It will attempt to provide resolution of the issue and will store information on the console about the current and previous Tuner troubleshooting attempts. Some of that information will be sent to Microsoft to be used to improve the Tuner and your future experience with it. This information includes the title of the game or application you were using, the angle of the Kinect camera, volume levels, player distance from Kinect, the Kinect serial number, and the Xbox console ID. For more information on Kinect troubleshooting, see Troubleshoot body tracking on the Kinect sensor for Xbox 360.

Back to top

Video, text, and voice chat


I understand the Kinect camera will allow users to have video chats via Video Kinect. How can I control the use of this feature?

Video chat is one of the powerful features of Kinect. One or several people in one room can contact and chat with a person or group anywhere that Kinect-enabled applications using video chat are available. We are aware that such a service has powerful benefits but requires controls, so we made certain you control if video of you or your family is being broadcast and who can see that video. You will also be shown, through thumbnail video on your screen, what video of you is being broadcast during a video chat session.

What are the Kinect video controls you are providing?

Within your Xbox Live profile, you can use the Video Communications family setting to establish who you communicate with using video. You can do the same from your child’s Xbox Live profile. Options include:

  • Everyone
  • Friends only
  • Blocked

You can also use the Accept Friends Request setting in your child’s family settings to require your approval before anyone is added to your child’s friends list. By using the Video Communications setting and the Accept Friends Request setting, you can effectively limit your child’s video communications to only those people you approve. 

What are the voice and text chat controls you are providing?

Voice and text chat are protected in the same manner as video communication with the same level of control. The Voice and Text Family Setting can be set to Everyone, Friends Only, and Blocked. Microsoft sets the default for this and other sharing controls to Blocked for child accounts and Friends Only for teenagers.

Back to top

Voice commands


When using Kinect voice commands, what data is collected by Microsoft and how is it used?

When you speak certain commands, Kinect recognizes those commands to respond appropriately. Capturing voice samples is critical to helping us improve our speech recognition capabilities, which includes helping make Kinect better at responding to voice commands. If you give permission, samples of those speech commands can be sent to Microsoft to help improve speech recognition. You can turn on or turn off voice command collection at any time. If you turn off voice collection in the privacy section of your Family Settings, the stored voice recordings that have not been sent to Xbox will be deleted without being sent.

Does Microsoft capture voice samples without my permission?

No. Kinect recognizes certain words you speak as a voice command to Kinect and uses those words to respond appropriately, but your speech isn’t sent back to Microsoft. The only time we store or send your spoken words is when you have granted us permission to collect and store keywords for research purposes such as improving speech recognition. You can see the voice data collection setting in the privacy section of your Family Settings.

What type of words are you capturing, and when are you capturing them?

We are only interested in your voice commands to Xbox, which we capture along with any ambient background noise. If you give Microsoft permission, we record commands whether you are online or offline. If offline, your Xbox console will store the information until you connect to Xbox Live.

What other voice control settings does Kinect provide?

There are two voice control settings for Kinect. One turns the Kinect microphone on or off. This stops or allows use of the sensor microphone for chat while still allowing voice commands. The other turns speech recognition on or off, allowing you to disable speech recognition for voice commands while still allowing chat. Regardless of the Microsoft settings, gestures still work.

Back to top