Are We Overreacting When It Comes to Next-Gen Privacy?
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“I always feel like…somebody’s watchin’ me…and I have no privacy.” – Rockwell

It’s finally happened. We’ve become so scared of the unknown that we’ve stopped looking under our beds or in our closets and started finding the boogie man jumping right out of our very own gaming consoles.

Now, with digital technology connecting the entire gaming community from all over the world, we find ourselves in a very different landscape these days. Gaming experiences are no longer isolated to our little fortresses of solitude. Now, more and more of our information is privy to the outside world. This, of course, has led to concerns about who sees what we’re doing and how. This debate has recently hit new heights of hysteria with the upcoming next generation of consoles. Worries that info collected on our goings on will be data mined and sold have swamped recent headlines as of late.

But are these concerns legitimate? We need to pull on this thread and find out where it originates.

E3 gave plenty for gamers to chew on regarding the upcoming release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Even though the game library of each system is interesting, this year all people can talk about is how “connected” the new consoles will be. Sony has demonstrated how the PlayStation will integrate with social media sites like Facebook, where your activities can be shared with friends and family. Also, recent signs indicate that you’ll be forced to use much more of your real identity when using the PlayStation Network or on Sony’s store (once again removing another layer of anonymity).

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Microsoft has since made what many consider to be the biggest splashes on the anti-privacy radar. With its integrated Kinect technology that is literally an “eye in the sky,” Microsoft will basically have a live webcam installed in your living room. Many point to Microsoft as the biggest offender when it comes to overreaching into gamers’ personal lives. Stoking this fire is the continuous back and forth we’ve heard between Microsoft heads and its marketing partners. It seems as soon as Microsoft reassures the public that our personal data won’t be leaving the console, some marketing exec is caught talking to investors about how this data will help them better customize what ads we see. So, with Microsoft clearly talking out of both sides of its mouth, we’re stuck in the middle of a RABBIT SEASON….DUCK SEASON scenario.

Now comes the part where I start the flame war in the comments section. The controversial opinion that flips people’s shit so much that they call my mother’s honor into question. So allow me to gently say, people…I think we may be overreacting a bit.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with two quick points. Number one, I don’t trust big brother any more than you do. I’m aware that, in business, you can’t lose sight of the fact that people are motived by money and the bottom line. So in the end, that’s what will drive the ultimate decision-making process, not the moral restraints of right and wrong. Second, I’m a guy who isn’t crazy about the 24/7/365 stream of unspoken thoughts that now have an outlet on places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever the f*@k people are using these days. That’s actually one of the real issues here. It’s hard to argue for privacy when people seem less and less concerned about it and more interested in making every aspect of everything they do known to the public. It’s a trend that shows zero signs of stopping.

The latest controversy is with the new DVR functionality that will literally record what you’re doing in games (such as unlocking Trophies/Achievements) and then share it online. The privacy concerns stem from those not wanting unintended eyes (such as a co-worker for example) seeing exactly what you like to do in your free time when you punch the clock and head home.

So, as you can see, it’s kind of the perfect storm of hysteria. One part of the gamer’s mind is worried that those in their personal or professional lives will be able to peep over their shoulder at their gaming activities, while the other fears corporations are harvesting and data mining their information in order to sell it to the highest bidder.

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The point I’m ultimately getting at here is…this is all just speculation. If we take a step back and realize that many of our concerns are based on things that supposedly “may” happen, it might help us get a grip. Microsoft and Sony assure us they don’t plan to use our data as marketing tools, and until they’re caught doing so, it’s hard to for me to justify crucifying them (although, I get that it’s not farfetched to think that they’ve considered it). As for sharing our content or console activities, I have to imagine that Microsoft and Sony are not stupid enough to deny users the same basic privacy settings that most social media sites have, that allow US complete control over what we share and how. Don’t forget, there was a time in the earliest days of networks like Xbox Live and the PSN that people didn’t like the idea of using their credit card. The idea of having their game console linked to a bank account made people a little skittish…at first. Now, people don’t think twice about it because of our “smart-phone” culture and every other aspect of our lives being on the grid. Why now would we feel our gaming consoles are any different?

I know I’m going way out on a limb here in giving two big corporations a LOT of rope they could potentially hang me with later. However, I’m still an “innocent till proven guilty” type of guy. Jumping to conclusions is something we all do sometimes, and I fear that may be the case when it comes to what we’re expecting in the next-gen.

Me, I’m not willing to yell fire in the theater just yet (although I know some people are starting to smell the smoke).

Jason Messer
Jason Messer
@J8sonMesser

Contributing Writer
Date: 10/11/2013

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