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Microsoft exec caught in privacy snafu, says Kinect might tailor ads to you

Sean Hollister
11.15.10
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Microsoft's Dennis Durkin voiced an interesting idea at an investment summit last week -- the idea that the company's Kinect camera might pass data to advertisers about the way you look, play and speak. "We can cater what content gets presented to you based on who you are," he told investors, suggesting that the Kinect offered business opportunities that weren't possible "in a controller-based world."
And over time that will help us be more targeted about what content choices we present, what advertising we present, how we get better feedback. And data about how many people are in a room when an advertisement is shown, how many people are in a room when a game is being played, how are those people engaged with the game? How are they engaged with a sporting event? Are they standing up? Are they excited? Are they wearing Seahawks jerseys?
Needless to say, sharing this level of photographic detail with advertisers presents some major privacy concerns -- though it's nothing we haven't heard before -- but moreover it's explicitly against the privacy policy Microsoft presents Kinect users. "Third party partners use aggregated data to deliver Kinect experiences (games or applications), to understand how customers use their Kinect experiences, and to improve performance or even to help plan new experiences," the Kinect Privacy and Online Safety FAQ reads, but also "They are not permitted to use the information for marketing purposes such as selling you games or services, or for personalizing advertising" (bolding ours).

In an email to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft flatly denied that the Kinect would do anything of the sort, whether via third-party partners or otherwise. "Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE do not use any information captured by Kinect for advertising targeting purposes," representatives wrote. Honestly, some of us at Engadget still think targeted advertising is kind of neat, but we know how seriously you take this stuff.

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