Microsoft reversing recent Xbox Live bans caused by software error

Microsoft is reversing specific Xbox Live bans, issued between August 29 and September 9, that were caused by a software error. The platform holder is looking to console those affected by providing them with three free months of Xbox Live and 1600 Microsoft Points ($20) for the inconvenience. Customers who were affected don't have to do anything -- the company is in the process of reversing the bans and updating appropriate accounts.

"In this case, it was one of those very, very rare circumstances where we were using software on the Xbox 360 to assist [in policy enforcement]," Xbox Live Director of Policy and Enforcement Stephen Toulouse told Joystiq this afternoon. He noted that his team regularly looks at a variety of information and bans are done conservatively with human oversight. "An issue came up that we felt the right thing to do after we determined some [consoles] weren't tampered with was to undo the suspension."

"We know exactly who was impacted," Toulouse stated. "This is a tiny fraction of the overall user base. This is not some widespread problem. If your console was suspended between the dates, the quickest way to find out if you were impacted by the software issue is to simply reconnect your console. If you can log in, you were impacted by the issue and we've unsuspended the console."

Toulouse said that his team and the company will now begin the process of rebuilding trust regarding bans. Acknowledging this specific incident, he feels, is the first step. Next is opening up the discussion of console banning, a secretive process that up until this admission was unquestioned.

"I think in the past the process being so conservative lent itself to a stricter appeals process and this issue has definitely illuminated to me that we need to go and revisit that. And I do commit to making a more transparent process for people to talk to us about suspensions of their console. I can absolutely commit to that, I would revisit that ... that transparency, I agree, needs to happen."

Asked about what specifically went wrong with the unduly banned Xbox consoles, Toulouse couldn't provide details, "This is sometimes the toughest part of my role. I really can't go into that, but I'll tell you why: There are entire internet forums dedicated to parsing every word we say about what the console is doing when it is looking for modifications, so that they can figure out a way around it. We have to be careful about sharing to that level of specificity, because that's what they're looking for. So, I can't go into what it was looking for, or how it was looking for it, I can only state that due to a software issue it drew up some machines that were not tampered."

Microsoft will no longer use the software that caused the error. "That is something we can do. We will discontinue the use of that particular technology."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.