A new note in the updated Software Usage Terms on PlayStation 4 may leave some gamers with a twinge of buyer's remorse. The new terms in question contain language about some distressing points, like how the company can “monitor and record” PlayStation Network (PSN) activity, up to and including voice messages and text messages. But while the implications of such monitoring could be cause for alarm, Sony's reasoning does make sense.
For instance, a phrase like “We reserve the right in our sole discretion to monitor and record any or all of your PSN activity and to remove any of your [user-generated media] at our sole discretion, without further notice to you” is the kind of thing that raises red flags for people who envision the removal of certain political or recreational leanings. But while this may seem worrisome, the explanation behind it is somewhat less so.
Sony noted that users shouldn't be concerned, at this point, because the company doesn't plan to keep substantial records of online activities—meaning it has no intention of stockpiling voice recordings of your conversations or saving extensive histories of text chats. It's more of a contingency measure, something Sony will keep on hand should the need for such information ever become needed, particularly in terms of, as Sony puts it “protect[ing] our rights and those of our licensors and users, and to protect the personal safety of our employees and users.” Sony reportedly admitted, specifically, that it “can't monitor all PSN activity and we make no commitment to do so.”
Most people out there have been a little on edge lately, thanks to the whole PRISM affair, prompting many to wonder just who has access to a user's information and just who those individuals are sharing all that information with in the first place. While this is likely little more than a bit of legal department security precaution, it's still the kind of thing that might make gun-shy users just a little more so. Looked at in the truest sense, Sony is merely allowing itself to make these records and share out said records when necessary. Of course, that doesn't stop many from considering the other implications; could casual comments in the heat of a competition come back to bite a user applying for a job, just as poor behavior on Facebook (News - Alert) can?
Then there are the issues of marketing: why wouldn't Sony want access to that information? Some basic speech analytics tools are all that would stand between Sony and knowing how many people love pizza on a Friday night, then selling relevant ad space to Pizza Hut or Dominos. Voice recording has been proven to be highly useful for businesses, so perhaps the most surprising—and suspicious—part of Sony’s claim is that the company allegedly will not be taking advantage of the profits voice recording and analytics can offer.
With shades of Snowden still rattling throughout the national gestalt, everyone's still just a little concerned about who's watching. Though this time, the PS4 may be doing at least a bit of watching, chances are it's not actually seeing—or recording—much.
Edited by Alisen Downey