Microsoft may be shopping your Xbox Live data for targeted political ads

Election season is coming up on us, and while some of us find that fascinating, many others just want to escape from the back and forth of political jabs and advertisements by turning to our gaming consoles. But if Microsoft has their way, your Xbox will no longer be an oasis from the politics.

According to the Washington Post, Microsoft was working CPAC, the yearly meeting of conservatives, pushing the idea of using Xbox Live gamertags and public information to build a demographic database to use for targeted political ads on your dashboard, as well as in Skype and MSN.

Despite the classic image of a gamer being a nerdy white teenage boy in his mom’s basement, the gaming community is a melting pot of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, races, and socio-economic standings. A surprising thirty-eight percent of Xbox live members are women, a highly-targeted political demographic, while even more are married and/or have kids.

Microsoft is no stranger to this kind of thing. They have made similar strides on their other platforms, like MSN. They have even mixed politics into the realm of Xbox before, inviting both President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to advertise there and they even streamed the debates with interactive polling. However, for some reason, the thought of them gathering information and funneling political ads into Xbox may seem a bit shady.

After all, it’s Microsoft who has been trying to prevent people from getting “Scroogled” by having their emails parsed and data-mined by Gmail by switching to Are your gamertags and Xbox Live habits any less sacred to users? Or is getting people involved in their political system, different?

Regardless, one of Microsoft’s initiatives with Xbox One was to take the Xbox name from gaming to all-around entertainment center. And by making it your one-stop place for all things media, they now have a captive audience for marketing.  That potentially means big bucks from salivating politicians looking to gain whatever edge they can.

So what do you think of the idea of Microsoft using your Xbox Live data to sell political ads? Is it shrewd business, or sleazy dealings?

Source: The Washington Post

Seth Brodeur
  • No sir I don't like it!
  • When you sign up for Xbox Live and also in your settings there are two check boxes for share my data with MS and share my data with 3rd party partners. That is the difference of this and Scroogle, you cannot opt-out of Google selling your data to 3rd parties (Gmail, Search, YouTube, Google Docs, Google+).
  • +1 as long as you can opt out, then I have no issue with it. If people want to share their info it is their right, but there should always be an option to not allow MS to share your data.  
  • 'Scroogle'... it's remarkable that Microsoft actually managed to find a word for something more cringeworthy than Xbone.
  • Microsoft did not coin Xbone, nor do the like using it. 
  • Correct! If I can opt-out, I'm fine. :)
  • If you think they're actually not going to harvest your data and sell it no matter what little clicky thing you do, you're gonna have a bad time.
  • It is you that lives in a fantasy world. Both Google and MS stick to the laws that spare them being sued. Although misuse isn't impossible, the threat of being taken to court over willingly and deliberately breaching their own ToS is a good deterrent. The difference between Google and MS is not that one allows you to opt out while the other doesn't, but in what both companies can do with the data you have already given them. Google can do virtually anything, as that data is legally theirs. That is not true of the data collected by MS.
  • This is really important to me. I recently decided to TRY Android to see what it was like despite the fact I have an inherent distrust of Google. Is it true they OWN my data? Does that apply to any email account on my phone or just my gmail, which I don't really use so don't really care about? Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • Wow, I don't know where to start.  NO, Google doesn't own all your data.  Lets go one by one.  1. Google Drive = According to its terms, Google does not own user-uploaded files to Google Drive, but the company can do whatever it likes with them. "The chances are Google's terms will never be an issue --- and it is likely over-zealous lawyers making sure Google doesn't somehow get screwed in the long run by a lawsuit --- but it may be enough to push away a great number of entrepreneurs and creative workers who rely on holding on to the rights to their own work." 2. Gmail = Google doesn't own your email data either. By using Gmail, you agree to the collection and use of your personal information as described in this policy. If we make any significant changes to this policy, we will notify you by posting a notice of such changes on the Gmail login page. You should know: * We collect limited account information and store and maintain your account and email messages on our secure servers.
    * We will never rent, sell or share information that personally identifies you for marketing purposes without your express permission.
    * We serve highly relevant ads and other information as part of the service using our unique content-targeting technology. No human reads your email to target ads or related information to you without your consent.
    * You can update your account information and preferences at any time. 3. Android phones in general.  Google doesn't own anything on the phone. Your data is your data. You can encrypt it if you like.  What you need to realize is that google gives most services to YOU for free.  They need to pay for this and they do this through advertising. If you have an Android phone and don't use any Google services you don't have anything that Google knows about you.  This is a plus to the Screwgeld people who belive that Google is stealing everything from you even thought that is plain false.  The bad is Google has great services that work together to give you a really good products.  Google has computers that scan the data you provide them to make your data work for you in a product called Google now. They also get paid by advertisers because Google knows when you searching on for computers and an advertiser of Computers will pay Google more in advertising to send you an add since they know a person looking for computers are more likely to buy one.  This is just like NBC has the most viewers so they get paid more per ad.  This is how Google chooses to pay for the services it provides because lets face it. The vast amount of us would choose to get things for free. Especially when their free.  People don't buy cable tv and watch commericals which pay for the tv.
  • You can opt out of interest based ads from Google, its clearly in the settings and Ads. Plus, Google and MS I would believe dont sell data to third party. Ads in Google I am fully sure are through https, so advertiser dont know who you are, until you have not logged in with ur Google+ id or in case of microsoft MS id to the advertiser site or app. Google serves the Ad based on ur profile not the advertiser. I would believe thats how it would work  in case of microsoft. But I dont know for sure how they plan to do this political thing.
  • Really? I saw that setting too, and I read it like this: You can opt out of getting/watching the ads, but not from Google collecting your information in the first place. IF MS is doing the same thing as Google, then I have nowhere to run and might as well get a Facebook account to round out the list of companies that are raping/collecting my person information. Is there no one that will give customers a choice anymore? This Internet thing really turned out a lot worse than anyone thought it would. It's all downhill from here people. Brace for it...
  • The problem is not with these companies, but with the average consumer who prefers free stuff over 'abstract' rights. Still, there are differences. Both collect data, but MS promises not to give 3rd parties access to it which Google doesn't. MS also makes it far easier to opt out of sending the data in the first place.
  • Ok, so MS is bad, just not as bad as Google. Wow, what has this world come to when all companies have to do is be less bad then their competition? Ironically, this is just like deciding who to vote for.
  • I would vote for that controller
  • Maybe if it was kissing a baby.....
  • "the right triggers for the right job"... how could you resist this slogan
  • The right wing finally got a black candidate worth voting for! ;)  (jokes, I'm black BTW.) :p
  • I think the name pookie lets us know that.
  • Care to tell all the non-Americans how that works? I don't get it.
  • Does that mean you vote for only black people and that non-Democrat black people aren't black enough for you?
  • Nope and Nope.  I vote more to who has my views.  I like a litle from both sides.
  • If they are using your public data, it's technically ok, but morally, less.
  • Not ok either way.
  • Sleazy, through and through.
  • Why would MS leak something like this! Damb you MS! Keep politics out of videogames. Watch the outrage and they'll start backtracking again. MS, don't think you're Google. Google can get away with anything but you can't.
  • Unless it is clearly opt-in, it's sleazy and they should be careful. It wasn't their goofy "Scroogled" campaign that did it, but I have been avoiding Google for the precise reason that I don't trust them with my data.
    MS isn't exactly a paragon of corporate responsibility, but it's at least a company where I can buy a product and not BE a product. Change that on me and I might as well go back to Google!
  • This.
  • CPAC is like the Gathering of the Juggalos, only dumber.
  • I thought it was mainly for closeted conservatives to hook up with each other?  How else do you explain the elephant ice sculpture where you suck vodka from its trunk? :)
  • Are you sure it wasn't drinking from somewhere else
  • "The annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which functions kind of like a Gathering of the Juggalos for Rick Santorum superfans, is currently underway in Washington. Also underway? CPAC attendees placing ads for gay casual encounters on Craigslist. Maybe." I find this hilarious mainly for the hipocrisy of it all, given that CPAC has never allowed gay Republican groups (shockingly, such quislings exist) to have an official presence at the conference.  And, in fact, is explicitly homophobic.
  • You are taking jezebel as fact. That is a mistake
  • There's a good chance that each of the posts cited are fake.  It's still funny. 
  • Let me guess, the liberal gatherings are a plethora of intelligence hahaha, get real jackass
  • I love it when people confirm stereotypes!! Carry on, this is fun.
  • I hate adds in all fronts. If I was to turn my 360 on and I see political adds thrown at me I would heave my system out the top window.
  • what if these ads compels you to VOTE MASTER CHIEF
  • Master chief id vote but politics in general or politicians I wish to replace them all.
  • Just what I wanted more political ads.
    Also can't wait for all the smarmy political attacks in the comment section. :-/
  • Should I ever get a political ad, especially a conservative one, I'll switch to Google and PS4. So, I said it
  • Heaven forbid you see a commercial that you don't like.
  • I'd also switch if they send me a liberal ad but let's face it: getting something you don't want (ad) for something you don't like is kind of a bummer
  • That's how I feel about all ads though...
  • Yes! Remember when cable TV was largely commercial-free? Now it can take four hours to watch a two-hour film on a "movie" station. :/
  • I have never ONCE been convinced to vote a certain way based on a commercial, but they spend a lot of money on them so there must be some people out there that actually believe what is said in these slimy ads.
  • Yeah, to a certain extent. If it wasn't for ads, I'd still be using an android phone, so I don't mind getting ads on things I'm generally interested in. Our political landscape and all the drama within certainly doesn't fall into thus category. I also believe a paid service should be ad free and I pay for my Gold subscription. So I would expect not even to have to opt out... Maybe an opt in option...
  • Yeah... no, you won't. You're not going to spend another $400 plus $60 a pop for new games, for a console that you didn't prefer in the first place, and then use a search engine that is already collecting your personal data at even more aggressive levels than Microsoft and who will likely serve you up political ads anyway all because you saw a political ad that you may or may not agree with. I'll call your bluff.
  • The irony here is that people like this try to paint conservatives as the intolerant ones... Like any other ad on Xbox, it would most likely be a live tile on the dashboard. If you are not interested in it, simply don't engage it (same as I treat 99% of the ads I see on the dashboard). Heck, it won't even produce sound unless you physically move over the ad tile... Extremely easy to just ignore.
  • I'm fine with ads if it's a service I'm not paying for.  Well, not fine, really, but I can accept it as the cost of getting something for nothing.  I'm not a fan of paying for something and getting ads along with it.
  • You should get a PS4 regardless.
  • Steam Machine Minimaster Race.
  • I don't really know how gaming and politics are related.
  • Read the article and you will feel more educated on that.
  • I understand the demographic reasons. I don't understand how it could possibly be tailored.
  • If you are a black guy in your 20s, you will get a political ad that says something about Obama's bad record on reducing black youth unemployment. If you are an old white male, you will get an ad about gun rights or about too much spending on welfare. If you are a middle-aged woman, you get the creepy Uncle Sam gynecologist ad, etc.
  • I'm ok with it, honestly, you can opt out of any privacy concerns in the options yourself. But having ads and commercial material filtered just for me is something I like, its tailored just for me, like a nice suit :)
  • Then you should like what Google does too. This is exactly what Google does with your emails.
  • Since my gamertag ≠ my emails I might be ok with opting into that.
  • Would you actually enjoy living in a ignorance bubble? That's sad...
  • I don't have an Xbox, but this seems an awful lot like getting scroogled.
  • This is much much better, you actually pay to get scroogled.
  • Although political ads are certainly more annoying, I don't see how this is anymore outrageous than Microsoft using my information to sell me products. The Xbox is just one out of many platforms on which politicians can now advertise, and it's barely more invasive than shoving ads down my throat on T.V. and on the internet.
  • Precisely what I was going to post. Companies (not just Google) do this all the time to sell products. The debate, more or less, on that front is gone; most people are okay with advertisers using small amounts of metadata to determine products they need/want. That being said, I take two issues with this: 1.) I don't think there should be advertising on gaming consoles, especially when you have to pay-to-play. Glad I moved to PC gaming a few years back (this way, the only ads I see (through Steam) are for--no way!--Games...and the occasional software release.) 2.) I could see this particular situation only furthering the polarization in our country (the US) by reinforcing points of view--whether they're wrong or right, based in fact or not. With that bit being said though, the polarization in the U.S. has been driven primarily (in my opinion) by the ability the internet has given us to filter out information and opinions we don't want to see or hear because of cognitive dissonance. I don't see this really changing any time soon, with or without people being catered to political ads on their consoles. But I also guess in this age it isn't so much about swaying as it is ramping up your base. Edit 2: On a related note to the second point, this is also a little disgusting because one tactic of political advertising is to over-saturate the air-waves with negative ads (or just ads in general) as it helps lower turn-out rates. Depends on how it's done. Edit: When I say small amounts of data, it obviously differs from company to company. Google uses far more metadata in their targeted ad systems than, say, Microsoft does through theirs. From my understanding at least.  
  • Yes exactly. The stuff about reinforcing the political polarisation is what concerns me most.
  • Good points.
  • Wtf Microsoft. Don't be evil.
  • Please tell me more about how Microsoft would never do the thing they diabolize Google for doing. I least Google doesn't hide that they are a company that lives from advertising. You know what you are getting yourself into.
    Anyway, I'm not American so this doesn't affect me, I'm sure. But even if it did...meh, I like politics. I have a masters degree in it. So I'm sure political ads wouldn't bother me at all. Unless they use sloppy algorithms and end up showing me (deliberately or not) wishi-washi-commie-socialistic-left-wing propaganda to make me sick. In wish case I'll be really pissed off once I finish vomiting :P
    (post scriptum - the comment was deliberately politicized just to show you how different political positions can be within users of a same service and why it is, therefore, such a stupid idea to mix politics and entertainment)
  • You. I like you. :-)
  • What the Monarch said, above. This should be an opt in option, if at all.
  • Another bad article about Microsoft... I've lost the count about it.   EDIT: I mean another bad article from the web, not from wpcentral.
  • Am I the only one who sees the word "may" in the title? Tbh provided they are impartial and allow both parties to advertise I don't see much issue.
  • Thoroughly upsetting. The political arena has become a hotbed of unjustified statements and untruths designed to coerce and confuse the public. Microsoft needs to stay out of politics and concentrate on that which the company was originally designed for. I don't approve of corporate America attempting to control our nations laws.
  • Love it...politician pays for your vote on a video game platform...politician wins election...politician then states video games are the end to a civilized society.
  • This is a catastrophically bad idea. Make it Opt-In only, and its just a bad idea.
  • In truth i feel that i should not receive any ads at all - i have paid the service subscription, after all. It probably is just me, but i would pay extra not to get any ads - it is not a matter about being targeted for me or whatever. I make my own decisions, and i may end up paying more because i miss a deal - well that is why i worked so hard! As for political ads - again, i prefer to do my own research; usually far more extensive than being linked to a candidates web page (where one can read the edited guff) Just my opinion though, and i am not in America (at the mo) so one imagines this is not something that will likely affect me anyway.
  • Definitely bad. This is the reason i hate targeted advertising. When it becomes political it results in different ads being targeted at different demographics to tell them what they want to hear. People become close minded and aren't willing to hear what the other side is saying. We've all know that most election promises are made under the principle of 'say whatever will get you elected', which results in most promises being broken. This just allows them to make more empty promises that are specifically targeted at the relevant demographics, even make opposing promises to different groups (eg. Tell the wealthy they'll cut funding from healthcare, but promise improved healthcare to the poor). No, this is very bad. If a policy of a political group is to be advertised, it should be advertised to all, regardless of whether some of the audience wont like it.
  • I'm offended that there is only the Republican logo.
  • Seems the OP is letting us know where the irritation will be coming from in advance.
  • The article itself says that this move comes after Microsoft had a meeting with CPAC, so it makes sense the hat only shows the elephant.
  • I don't like it either. I could see them doing this in free stuff but not for paid products. That should be illegal.
  • It'll be strange to see ads for me as I'm centrist. I'll be getting liberal and conservative ads which I don't want to see because all parties are corrupt.
  • They are more likely to target you for things like your age, gender, state, etc. than your political preference, which they probably don't know. Even if you were a liberal (or a key liberal target demographic), GOP ads can be tailored to try to convince you to not turn up to vote, and the opposite if you are a target GOP demographic, irrespective of what your actual political preferences are.
  • Red vs Blue has taken on a whole meaning.
  • MSFT should have a free and paid version of Xbox live. Kinda like phone apps.
    Paid = no ads.
    Free = ads all over the Fn' place.
    Me......I'll pay.
  • During voting season, I keep track of who calls more often. The more you call, the worse you score. Targeted ass (haw! autocorrect for "ads") on the dashboard will earn my ire the same way.
  • I agree with you. But if they can provide a better service, ie ESPN then I don't mind it as long as it's off to the side like on the 360. If it interrupts my gaming or whatever else I'm doing then it becomes a problem. I fear that snap thing may be used to provide pop up ad at some point. I hope I'm wrong though.
  • "opt out" hahahaha, sure. I'm sure that means they won't use your data.
  • Well damn... If I wanted my privacy to be treated like dirt, then I'd go to Google....
  • Great... Another reason to make people hate Xbox one and go to ps4.....
  • I usually try to defend Microsoft but if they do that I wouldn't be able to defend them
  • Jeez..
  • MS have spend lots of money on promoting their products, themselves and attacking their competitors but they used to waste all of money they spent on promotion by killing themselves in order to earn small profit like this. They always make great products but they have no idea how to handle or favor their customers so they make small but bad decision which potential customers won't like and which give their customers bad image on their prodcut not to buy it. After slow sales, MS used to try to change their decision when it is too late. Let's look at Xbox one. This is great console but MS did do some fool mistakes which was changed late and which made lots of people buy PS4 not Xbox one. I think that MS don't care much about their customers they even don't know how to meet what customers want as they didn't do for over twenty years on PC market . That's why MS is not strong on B2C market to compare with Apple and Google.
  • The share info tick boxes should be off by default imo. Not a big fan of ads - we all get bombarded 24/7 with ads - don't want to sit down to relax and get blasted with crap - so much for "personal space" lol. At this rate, I might as well plug in my dreamcast and get a dumb phone.
  • there is big money in politics.
  • I don't live in the USA so how does this affect me lol
  • I will be fine under only one condition.  I want the debates to be done specifically with gamers in mind.  I want both candidates to drop as many good or preferablly horrible references to videogames in their debates and speeches.  Bonus points for saying "like your Nintendo consoles."
  • And they wonder why no one buys this junk. They also have the ability to tell how many people are sitting in your living room, and what they are doing. Yeah no thanks pos.
  • Agreed! Not what i want in my games console..
  • Hopefully the pushing of ads is limited to US. As someone from EU, id rather not have to watch this crap :D
  • You said it right brotha, its crap. I wish air time in this country was spent showing useful ads as opposed to the clowns we have in office. I been done with politics a while back. I feel so much better without it.
  • Keep political BS away from my Xbox. I don't want it, I don't want to see it and I don't care. All politics do is divide people. The two party system sux. Don't tell me there are more than two because its not set up that way. You could put makeup on a pig, its still a pig. I don't care for the Sh*t show of BS and lies. I rather have my $500.00 of my hard earned money to not contain any endorsement, ads, speeches, of request of donations. Those clowns in office make enough money. Microsoft should not expose anyone to the joke that's called politics. Its a insult to my intelligence. I'm done being insulted. That goes for religion too, unless both politics or religion is part of a video games story line, then its okay.
  • There will be an ad there whether it's targeted or not, right? I'd much rather have something interesting to ignore than something completely useless to me, like a tampon ad...
  • How about videogame ads in videogame console?  Or even better, how about no ads period in a overpriced paid service?
  • I didn't like this news, but I forgot that yes, you can control if Microsoft can share your data or not. It's under the "Third Parties" option, just uncheck it. Done. :)
  • Looks like you are getting Scroogled.
  • MS is filled with left leaners and that is the last thing the younger crowd needs another left leaning propaganda arm targeting more ads at them... Maybe if it was unbiased.. And good luck with that. As far as who collects what. Every company is in this to make money.. It is always a better position to be the customer then the product. Customers have more control, when you are the product things only change when the quality of the product suffers.. You have little control on how you are served up. It's like the Turkey dictating the side dishes and stuffing at thanksgiving. Free sucks most of the time.
  • These are targeted ads so it should be inherently biased towards your political leaning.
  • While I'd prefer not having these ads on my dashboard, I don't see how it's different from any other targeted ads. It's not like these political ads will have any effect on me, you rarely get any useful information that isn't propaganda.