Microsoft’s Albert Penello Talks More on Xbox One’s Kinect and Advertising: “I Hope We Never Do it”

The sea has been fairly stormy around Kinect and and the Xbox One in the past few days, due to an article on Advertising Age that implied that Kinect is going to be used as some sort of Troy Horse to gather our data and use it for advertisement purposes. While Microsoft is seeking a correction on the article itself, Director of Product Planning Albert Penello (that already wrote about the issue a few days ago) took to NeoGaf to provide a further clarification.

First of all Penello mantained that no one to his knowledge is working on the feature, and that the article on Advertising Age is vague and made mostly of speculation from the author. He also mentioned that there’s a clear checkbox in the Xbox One’s settings menu to opt in for the gathering of biometric data in the exclusive form of voice samples.

So let’s recap what happened here.
I said any reference to using Kinect biometrics for advertising was purely speculative, and we’re not doing any development work to implement it.
There was an article with a misleading title and a confusing reference to Yusuf saying something different.
The author of that article clarified in his own comments section that Yusuf was also saying using Kinect biometrics was speculative, and we weren’t working on it, and confirmed that what I said and what Yusuf said did not contradict
The PR team issued a clarifying statement to that effect.

So all this perceived inconsistency boils down to an article in AdAge that was basically vague.

I’m going to summarize one more time our stance on this, since people think I dodge the question. It’s what I’ve said before, it’s what the PR team just reiterated, and it turns out it’s what Yusuf said last week.

We are not working on anything using biometric data from Kinect or anywhere else to target advertising.
No personal information leaves the Xbox One Console
The only biometric data we collect, are voice samples to improve our recognition engine. We only do that when a consumer opts in. There is a very clear checkbox in the Settings menu.
IF anything like this ever gets implemented, we will be clear to consumers and give them the ability to control it. We have historically posed this information online, not buried in a complicated EULA, and I see no reason to think that will change.

Secondly, he explained the reasoning behind implementing a  feature for tracking engagement with Kinect, which many linked to advertisement purposes:

Many times, when you envision a feature, you think about game scenarios. Even though the guys working on Kinect aren’t game designers, you always try to think up new ideas. There was an idea in the early days about an Interactive game, think Heavy Rain type thing, where you’re interacting with a game character and he’s looking right at you. He can see if you’re talking, looking away and not paying attention, etc. and the conversation could be dynamic. It was a pretty cool idea, and that’s where things like smiling, looking away, heart rate, etc. came up. Heart rate also helps with fitness.

More practically, engagement helps with voice recognition. We do a lot with multiple people in the room and beamforming to know who is talking. It helps with accuracy to know if you’re looking at the screen or looking away when determining if you’re trying to give a voice command.

Finally, in a rather surprising outing, Penello also went as far as stating that he does not like the idea of gathering users’ data for advertising, and he personally hopes that such a feature will never see the light of day. He also mentioned that it’s fair that users to question it.

That’s totally fair. People at MS have talked about it enough, that I can see why people would be questioning it,

Me personally, and I’ll get in trouble for saying this… I don’t like it at all. I wish we never talked about it, and I hope we never do it. Someone posted a link to something similar being said around the original Kinect, and we never did anything. I’m hopeful the same holds true here.

I have to agree with that. Let’s all hope that this kind of intrusive feature will remain a marketer’s wet dream and nothing more.

Join the Discussion

  • MattS71

    My future of gaming does not include Kinect.

    • Mine does. Can’t wait to play Kinect Sports Rivals.. can’t wait to try out the TV commands. It’s nice having options to use something or not.

  • Krakn3dfx

    I like Penello, but he’s already been caught passing out some pretty significant misinformation on other sites. I believe he wants me to believe, but that doesn’t mean I will.

    • Jason Andrew Hahn

      Odd, where he mentions vagueness and speculation you discredit him without a source, “nuff said”…

      • NeoTechni

        Penello was caught in a neogaf thread blatantly lying

  • ex-xboner

    kinect the feature no one want yet they try to force user to buy it …

    • Satsumo

      Actually I want Kinect – so “no one want(s)” is not true.
      Think Penello had been honest and clear – MS to be fair have always been clear about data gathering and privacy which is more than can be said about others (such as Google). But MS do need to get a grip on their staff and get them to think before they speak so that they don’t then have to unravel misinformation.

      • Stuart Moulding

        There are a lot of people here that unfortunately seem to think that just because they dont want something then that must mean no one wants it

    • Stuart Moulding

      I want the kinect and cant wait to see what it can do

      • Jason Andrew Hahn

        I want it to!

    • Your username is all kinds of epic win.

  • Stranger On The Road

    There was an idea in the early days about an Interactive game, think Heavy Rain type thing, where you’re interacting with a game character and he’s looking right at you. He can see if you’re talking, looking away and not paying attention, etc. and the conversation could be dynamic.

    Give me an JRPG that does this and I will buy a 2nd Kinect for the sake of it 🙂

    My only condition that the offline option is never taken away from me.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Doesn’t anyone find it funny how most people had no such concerns about the first Kinect? It sold a whole ton yet folks weren’t so concerned about their privacy and all kind of stupid things they are adding.

    Lets get to the crux of the matter. All this hate for Kinect 2.0 has to do with the fact that its not optional for purchase. Penello can say whatever he wants but until they show why gamers should pay $100 more for Kinect 2.0 its pointless.

    MS should layoff the whole marketing team for the XBONE. They don’t get that its a complete and utter failure. The console is probably every bit as good as the PS4 despite all the Sony fangirls.

    I’m glad since the only thing that can save the XBONE is the games. They will have to get exclusives that are better to compete. As long as they are very good games, it will be a joy having both consoles. That what excites me for the next gen.

  • BrianC6234

    We know we can’t believe a thing Microsoft says about the Xbox 180. Next week someone from Microsoft will probably say it’s true.