How To

How to Play Without Xbox One Privacy Worries

Written by Sydney Butler
Last updated September 23, 2021

The Xbox One is the latest console in the Microsoft product line. When the first Xbox came out, few people imagined that Microsoft would become one of the two top dogs in console video gaming. Yet, here we are today where Sony and Microsoft battle it out for market dominance.

For a child of the 90s like myself, I would not have believed before the first PlayStation that SEGA would be gone and Nintendo would exit the mainstream. Neither Sony or Microsoft ever really intended to enter this market, but things happened and now this is the world gamers live in.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the Xbox One didn’t sell nearly as well as the PS4. Sony has made up for the many mistakes made during the PS3 era. It is now a staunchly gamer-focused brand. Whereas Microsoft made repeated mistakes while trying to turn the Xbox One into something for everyone, but instead making it something for no one. That’s not to say the One is a failure! Taken by itself, there are a LOT of Xbones out in the wild. As of March 2018, the Xbox One has sold more than 36 million units. Pretty good, although not nearly as good as the 74 million the PS4 has sold.

So this article is for the 36 million people who have bought an Xbox One. Hey, it’s a great console with some wonderful games. Don’t feel bad! You should, however, feel a little concerned about your privacy when using your Xbox One.

Xbox One Default Privacy

If you sign up for an Xbox Live account and change nothing, then just about everyone can watch your activity on the service right from the start. Your profile is available for searches. People can see what games you play and what apps you’ve used. Unlike the PS4, Microsoft has opted not to make your real name visible to anyone by default. This is something you’ll have to switch on if you want it. Honestly, Sony should have taken a cue from MS in this particular case and should put more concern over PS4 Privacy.

App Permissions

If you own a smartphone (and who doesn’t?), then you are already familiar with app “permissions”. Most of the applications you can download to your Xbox One aren’t created by Microsoft, so it’s up to the user to decide whether they’ll give the software access to certain private information. If you want to see which apps have permission to access your personal data the simple do the following:

Here you can manage permission on a per-app basis.

The Kinect Camera and Privacy

Xbox Kinect

When the Xbox One first launched the “Kinect” peripheral was not an optional extra. These days you can buy the Xbox One without it, but plenty of people still have a Kinect connected to their Xbox Ones.

That might make you a little worried since in the last few years the act of webcam hacking has become much more common. We’ve written about the best practices when it comes to cameras on other devices before. However, this is a little different.

First of all, the Kinect isn’t some off the shelf webcam. You’d need some very special knowledge to hack it. Secondly, the Xbox itself is a proprietary system with closed software. Which means unauthorized access to the Kinect camera is very unlikely.

The key word here, however, is “unauthorized”. Just as with other app permissions, you need to give an application the explicit right to access the Kinect. So, in theory, the owner of the app could abuse that permission and spy on you.

If you don’t think a particular app should be trusted with your camera, then do the following:

Your camera has to be on for the settings to work. Now look under Choose which apps can use your camera. Find the apps you don’t trust and take away their privileges.

Who’s Listening?

We’re all pretty used to voice controls on things these days. With Siri, Alexa, the Google Assistant and many more chatbots invading our lives. When the Xbox One launched, however, it was still a pretty futuristic feature. Well, really all anyone ever used Xbox voice controls for tricking foul-mouthed kids into turning their Xboxes off.

What you might not know about this technology is that Microsoft collects data on your speech. The stated reason for this is to improve the performance of speech recognition. Which makes perfect sense. However, do you want to give Microsoft permission to basically record what you say in your living room and then store it on a server? Even if they’d never abuse that info, some future hacker might. Here's how to turn it off.

Here you can turn off the option that lets Cortana collect your speech info.

Go Invisible

Invisible Man

One of the best things about owning an Xbox One is having a blast with your friends playing great multiplayer games like Rocket League and Halo. Still, you can't keep that up all the time, so it's useful to hide from your social circle every now and then to watch some Netflix or Play single player stuff. Here's how to go invisible on your Xbox:

Hey, presto! Now you are online, but to everyone, it looks like you aren't. You can make it so that only friends can see you too, but then you'll have to head over to Settings > Account > Online Privacy and Safety,  Pick Adult Defaults and then choose who can see which activities.

Thinking of the Kids

Just as on the PS4 and most modern consoles, you can create a special account for your child and then set special parental settings for it. This will ensure that they only play what you approve of.

You'll find everything you need under Account > Family on your Xbox One.

Playing It Safe

The Xbox One is an Excellent console, but even great toy can hurt us if we don't use them correctly. By just tweaking a few important key privacy settings, your Xbox is now not only fun but much friendlier.

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