We now find an ally in the most unlikely of places…
As the Black Friday shoppers lick their wounds from the insane morning spent elbowing past each other to snatch up elusive PS4 or Xbox One deals, it’s nice to see that we’re settling into a long winter filled with fun next-gen games. However, the tranquil seas on the horizon are quite different than the days, weeks, and months leading up to launch. It wasn’t very long ago that security and privacy concerns filled every blog, forum, and game site. At the center was almost a mass hysteria of data-mining and identity-thieving paranoia that whipped the gaming world into a frenzy. At the center of the storm were our Microsoft friends who, by all accounts, were considered the “worst offenders” when it came to our privacy.
Ah…what a difference a day makes! It would now seem that Microsoft is leading the charge on behalf of its costumers against the United States government!
In an attempt to plant a firm wall between their users and outside forces that would seek to invade their privacy, Brad Smith, a legal VP at Microsoft, recently released a statement via the company’s official blog. In it, he makes it clear that Microsoft intends to do everything within its power to make sure Xbox users are safe from snooping. “Many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet. We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data. Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data,” said Smith. He doesn’t name our government specifically in this comment, but if you follow the news and the latest NSA scandal, it’s easy to see he’s passively pointing the finger at Washington, DC. He also goes on to ensure that Microsoft will be taking the necessary steps to give its new defense some teeth against its attackers. “In light of these allegations, we’ve decided to take immediate and coordinated action in three areas: we are expanding encryption across our services, we are reinforcing legal protections for our customers’ data and we are enhancing the transparency of our software code, making it easier for customers to reassure themselves that our products do not contain back doors.” outlines Smith.
I’m sure you get a warm and fuzzy feeling of security now right? We can all rest easy…
OK, maybe don’t go that far. Don’t get me wrong, I like what I’m hearing from Microsoft, but I find the sentiment to be a bit hollow. It would have been great if Microsoft had taken this stance a year ago when the hype machine for the Xbox One first rolled out. However, this seems very much like a “bandwagon” approach after they saw the tide of public opinion shifting against them. Don’t forget, it wasn’t very long ago that Microsoft was accused of coercing with the government to allow them to intercept user’s data and communications. Instead of stepping out ahead of this issue and drawing a firm line in the sand, it just comes across very reactionary on their part. Much like with the numerous retractions and corrections they’ve made over the last year (especially coming out of E3), it would appear that Microsoft misread the tea leaves early on and was then forced to backpedal. This current move is what I would consider their “do over.” They’re banking on people remembering this stance, causing us to forget the events that came before. It’s all about a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.
Now I’m willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, and I’m all for second chances. At least Microsoft has the wherewithal to know when they are on the wrong side of an issue and do a course correction. Yes, it would be nice if they could hit the homerun right out of the box, but I’m not sure that’s possible these days. Even Sony is experiencing hiccups with security on the PlayStation 4. After recently emailing many of its users to change their passwords (sighting “irregular activity”), some immediately got that uneasy feeling that harkens back to when their network was hacked just a few years ago. I suppose we just have to accept that with the digital age comes a whole new level of threat. As our consoles become more “plugged-in,” by extension, we’re willingly opening up our privacy to the outside world.
Remember Microsoft and Sony – you’re the gatekeepers. You’re our last line of defense. THEY may be watching US...but we’re watching YOU.