Xbox Live’s New ToS: They’re Watching You


Hey! No Peeking!

When you turned on your Xbox yesterday, you might’ve noticed a new Xbox Live Terms of Use and Services that you had to agree to, to get back on Xbox Live to commence watching Netflix, playing multiplayer, or to actually do anything at all, online. When we usually notice such service Terms of Use updates, we instinctively agree to them, just so we can get on with our lives and not have to read lawyer-speak for the next 30 minutes-to-an-hour.

I remember a year or two ago I took the time to read the last Live ToS, which was basically nothing aside from how you can or cannot use Xbox Live services, and how MS makes litigation against them almost impossible, due to you giving up a crapload of your rights in turn for using their services. Again, the same old license agreements we read through before to be able to use countless goods and services in the digital world.

The next one or two of the Live license agreements, I just hit “Agree”, just so I could continue my promised payback to FR@gSRuS in Call of Duty.

This time though, I actually took it upon myself to read through it. And the few questionable points I found in the Terms of Use document did not sit too well with me. Let’s break it down:

MS has the absolute authority to disable or remove any and all content on your Xbox 360 or Xbox One. For any reason. That right there gives them the unfettered authority to remove/delete your access to 1st or 3rd party media, which includes apps, games, and services. Again: for any reason. That definition of a reason for removal of said content, whether you paid for it or not, is just too broad for my liking.


The content that MS has the power to remove, also cannot be re-downloaded or re-streamed for any reason, even if you have paid for said content. Again, only if they deem whatever you have done to deserve this judgment, falls within the absurdly broad definition of “any reason”.


This portion basically says that if we use Xbox Live/Games for Windows Live, Microsoft has the right to copy, distribute, broadcast, publically display and perform, and reproduce your game scores, game play sessions, your presence Xbox Live/GfWL, the time that you spend in certain areas of the service (apps, chat, dashboard, games, etc.), portions of the service actively displayed on your screen, and your rankings, stats, gamer profiles, avatars, and other content that you submit, and general usage metrics.


Not too bad obviously, but you’re still giving up to MS everything that you do once you’re connected to the Live/GfWL services. They’ve also stated that whenever the data they have collected from you is being used, they can do so without notifying you or providing you with any compensation.


TLDR: You use their Live service in exchange for data collection and the forfeiture of compensation, as well as them not letting you know when they’ve used your data.

Now this part of the Terms of Use had me looking over my shoulder. “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”.


Now obviously I was not expecting 2048 bit encryption of my video chats on Skype or my voice chats with my friends, but it does make me uneasy that MS has the capability to record and listen in on/watch what I say or do, and that they have expressly claimed as such right in the ToU. In times of NSA watch dog scares, and the ability of the Kinect to peak at my shameful attempts at basket weaving, and, you know, the whole controversy of the NSA working with MS to allow a back-door program that allows the surveillance of communications facilitated by any MS-related products, these kind of things do keep me on the edge a little. But don’t worry, MS says “However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.” Okay, whew. I feel better MS. Thanks for the solid.

So, all-in-all, a pretty standard MS ToU, but with some pretty blatant relinquishment of the user’s rights. Added on top of that, the ability of MS to watch my audio and video communications does not sit well with me. And it shouldn’t with you either.

PS: Sony: I’ll be checking you out, too. Don’t you worry.