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

on October 8, 2013 8:36 PM

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.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.