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Sony updates PS4's terms of service to remove your privacy (j/k, you never had any)

Sony is just days away from launching a new console in the US, and fans are currently hyped enough that they’ll get excited over corporate legalese on the system’s capabilities. That includes posting FAQs and this terms of service that (boringly) clarifies certain things about the PlayStation 4. After they read through what does and doesn’t define a PS4 game, some people online are bothered by a section concerning Sony’s ability to ”monitor and record” PSN communications, which includes voice chat and video messages. It may feel like an invasion of privacy, but it’s also the reality you’ve been living with on the PlayStation 3, Vita, 360, Xbox One, and pretty much everything else that uses the internet.

Take a look back at the user agreement for both the Vita and the PS3 and you'll see they all detail Sony’s right to monitor messages on PSN, and that’s continuing with the PS4. When terms of service says “[W]e reserve the right in our sole discretion to monitor and record any or all of your PSN activity,” that’s merely the company making more clear the online policy that’s been in place all along.

Shocked that a game company would do something like this? Well, if you're planning on playing a next-gen console, you're going to have to get used to it. Here’s Xbox One’s eerily similar to the statement on the service: “You should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features (for example, voice chat, video and communications in live-hosted gameplay sessions) offered through the Xbox Live/Games for Windows-Live service.” Both are acknowledging the realities of 2013, a time when governments (or companies) can do basically whatever they want in the name of security.

On a certain level, it’d be irresponsible if Sony was completely hands off with its service, at the very least from a customer service standpoint. The company needs the ability to ban problem players and investigate network security risks if it wants any type of online gaming for the PS4. I’m not sure what our personal voice chat has to with that, but apparently Sony feels it’d rather have that avenue for investigation than not.

Companies like Sony and Microsoft spent millions (if not billions) to create online services that have grown very sophisticated over the past decade. By inviting so many people onto their services, they need some level of quality control to keep it running smoothly. And even with all that money, do you seriously think Sony or Microsoft has the resources to catch the major problems that occur, let alone listen to every single person online?

I hate the idea of lost privacy as much as the next gamer, and as a consumer we all have the choice to keep our PS4s offline past the first registration, so feel free to opt out. But if you have Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, Instagram, or any similar service, I don’t really see the point in staying away. Social media is all about making your private life public in far more invasive ways than PSN can. And then there’s the countless ways agencies like the NSA and closed circuit cameras worldwide have the ability to watch everything you do. The current state of the internet strangled personal privacy years ago, and Sony is being more open than most about the reality of those security procedures.

Accepting said reality isn’t meant to give Microsoft or Sony future forgiveness on any potential/inevitable misuse of its access to your messages, but lets deal with that when it happens. As it stands, they’re is just part of the new standard of online privacy--or lack there of. If you don’t want to be a part of that, your next-gen consoles are just the beginning of the hundreds of ways you’ll need to avoid modern society.

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43 comments

  • Shnubby - November 12, 2013 7:33 a.m.

    Doesn't really bother me since I've never had anything to hide! The only people that would be upset about this would be those that do have something to hide... and if they have something to hide then it is a good thing that Sony is doing this in order to find out what that hidden thing is?? It all makes perfect sense to me! :)
  • brian-lafleur - November 13, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    Spoken like a true slave. Hey Establishment despots, throw a crony a bone when they parot your talking points!
  • Shnubby - November 13, 2013 12:29 p.m.

    I'm not sure I quite understand what point you are trying to make, I'm just saying that this isn't a new thing and it's never caused me a problem before so I'm really not bothered about it continuing.
  • brian-lafleur - November 13, 2013 12:35 p.m.

    See my comment below for an indepth explanation
  • mafyooz - November 12, 2013 12:45 a.m.

    Unfortunately Internet Privacy has been up there with Military Intelligence and Political Integrity for years, the question isn't so much "are my communications being recorded" as ""what are they going to do with the information". Although I'm never happy about anything that could be used to curtail individual rights for the purposes of "national security" (which has never led to anything good historically), personally I'm not abusive online and I'm certainly no master criminal or terrorist, so if anyone was actively monitoring my communication the poor sod would have died of boredom by now!
  • Eightboll812 - November 12, 2013 8:48 a.m.

    The thing that bothered me about the Xbone privacy issue is that MS didn't seem to understand the difference between passive and active monitoring. I understand that if I speak into a mic at someone across the internet, I might be recorded. What I do not accept is that if I put a microphone in my room and I cannot turn it off per the product specs, that anything I say to people in my own home might be recorded. What was more disturbing was that MS didn't seem to understand that distinction and wouldn't address the concern with clear statements that they were not going to EVER record by video or audio any information out of your own home. At least I know that with Sony, if I'm not talking TO someone via a headset, or typing TO someone via a keyboard, there's no chance I'm being monitored. MS has never given anyone reason to feel they have that same assurance when putting an Xbone in their living room. Now to echo what others said, I don't have anything to hide, but I have kids and the thought of them possibly being recorded in my home will turn me into a rageaholic, in a New York second. (Maybe I should have said Redmond second?)
  • mafyooz - November 12, 2013 9:01 a.m.

    I also have kids, a daughter and a stepson, and the potential Kinect passive monitoring issue is one of the reasons we've told my step-son's biological father not to buy him an Xbone as he was intending.
  • brian-lafleur - November 13, 2013 7:18 a.m.

    The problem lies with people like myself who are politically active. Any and all personal information can be used for synthesizing and analyzing a personal profile which can be used for marketing purposes (the most benign) or to intimate and blackmail political dissenters (the most egregious). So, let's say, for example(true story) that I'm in talk with state congressmen and senators to propose a call for a convention to propose an amendment to get money out of politics, 100% publicly funded elections effectively outlawing lobbying. See, that's a threat to the establishment, but never fear, they have a treasure troll of data that could spun, leaked, or misrepresented in order to discredit, humiliate or shame me. So to the apathetic, mindless masses, it's not a big worry, but to those of us fighting for justice and equality it's a pretty big fucking deal.
  • TKTOWA - November 11, 2013 11:47 p.m.

    Meh, I've got nothing to hide.
  • Vonter - November 11, 2013 10:23 p.m.

    "The conscience is an interior voice that warns us that someone might be watching" - Henry-Louis Mencken
  • TokenGamesRadarFurry - November 11, 2013 8:34 p.m.

    Doesn't bother me any.
  • Shigeruken - November 11, 2013 6:17 p.m.

    The more I hear about these consoles, the worse they seem. Every single announcement is either ridiculous or disappointing.
  • BladedFalcon - November 11, 2013 7:45 p.m.

    Just to be clear, these new terms of service apply to ALL of Playstation products, including the PS2, PS3, PSP and PS Vita, it isn't exclusive to the PS4. All in all, it doesn't seem to be a big deal anyway... yet.
  • Shigeruken - November 11, 2013 8:49 p.m.

    Yeah, but I sort of just wanted to make a statement about my general disappointment in Sony and Microsoft :D
  • BladedFalcon - November 11, 2013 9:45 p.m.

    Fair enough ^^ To be honest, I'm not very impressed either. Which adds to my resolution of not getting either console any time soon :P
  • TurkeyOnRye - November 12, 2013 6:42 a.m.

    I didn't plan on getting one for a while either.... then I went and joined a conga line for the X1. If I'm getting one this early in the console life, which means it's probably guaranteed to fail... it'd better be damn near free. I don't understand how people just up and buy a new console whenever one dies. Reading the internet, it seems like most people are on their second or third 360 and/or PS3.
  • BladedFalcon - November 12, 2013 7:39 a.m.

    ...Because the majority of people aren't smart?
  • Eightboll812 - November 12, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    Part of the reason for this, and to be a little bit fair to MS and Sony, it was the first console generation that had a big cooling problem to solve. Most of the issues with PS3's (the so called YLOD) dying are early models where the thermal paste has dried out and stopped conducting heat between the heat spreader and the copper coil/fan assembly. I'm a little less familiar with RROD causes, but I assume those are related to cooling as well, from all the after-market cooling products I see for 360 sold along side PS3 cooling solutions. Later models don't seem to have the same issues because the processors themselves don't generate as much heat, and I'm assuming Sony/MS have learned from some of their mistakes on the cooling side.
  • TurkeyOnRye - November 12, 2013 11:45 a.m.

    No, I get that. What I mean is... how do people afford it?

Showing 1-20 of 43 comments

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