Poking fun at Microsoft has practically become a professional pastime for many gamers, but every time I hear another complaint, I'm forced to wonder if these concerns are actually valid or if it's yet another fanboy dog pile.
Case in point: Today, Microsoft announced that they've been trying to work with the U.S. government to reveal the type of data that the NSA has been requesting. Until now, Microsoft has been an easy target; the fact that they had been sharing private information with the intelligence community is well established. But, in an effort to reassure their customers, Microsoft would like to clear the air about what is actually being shared.
"We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president. "While we did discuss legal compliance requirements with the government as reported last week, in none of these discussions did Microsoft provide or agree to provide any government with direct access to user content or the ability to break our encryption."
The report that Smith is talking about came from The Guardian on July 11th. The article alleged that Microsoft was giving the NSA access to emails and digital files that had been stored via their SkyDrive service. It also accused the NSA of tapping into Skype conversations. However, all of this has been rebutted within the last few days, and Microsoft is working hard to win back the trust of their customers.
The thing that's always bothered me about the Microsoft fiasco is that the complaints leveled against the company are so flimsy in comparison to the actual evidence. And what's worse is that people's readiness to blame Microsoft betrays their dislike in a way that's completely unreasonable.
For example, many gamers are suspicious of the Kinect 2 because they assume that Microsoft will use its video and audio capabilities to spy on unsuspecting gamers. But this seems a little strange to me; cellular telephones are more readily available and have very similar capabilities. Yet very few people are accusing Apple of tapping their iPhones.
If the NSA wanted to learn some nefarious secrets about me, my computer would provide a much more juicy stash of information than my video game console. Plus, I'm staring into my laptop's camera right now, and I would imagine that it's much, much easier (and useful) to turn on a computer's camera than it would be to co-opt the Kinect sensor.
If you want to be suspicious of technology, don't only apply it to your least favorite console. But if you're going to be suspicious of every piece of tech that you own, you should know that you're going to look a little nutty.
Until the robots take over. Then I'm crashing at your place.