John Kass
Chicago Tribune

Chicago: Though he’s vowed to cut back on those drone attacks of his, President Barack Obama needs to launch the mother of drone attacks: Against Xbox One.

It must be destroyed soon, before it’s too late.

Americans are fools for shiny technology, and the Xbox One from Microsoft is the coolest, shiniest TV entertainment system in the history of man.

The console, which could cost upward of $350, is being advertised as the perfect thing for watching live TV, movies and streaming video and playing video games.

But there’s one thing. It spies on you.

“That’s what really freaks me out,” said my colleague Old School. “It’ll be spying on me, in the dark, when I’m sitting there.”

That’s why Xbox One must die. All the glitzy stuff aside, the danger of Xbox One is that in the hands of an evil genius — or an IRS agent — it could be a spy system.


It has a camera and a microphone.

The camera will look at you when you enter a room, recognize your face and greet you. The microphone will pick up your voice, if you dare speak your thoughts out loud in your own home and transmit it into voice recognition software.

Oh, and you can’t turn the microphone off.

The high-powered processor is triggered by keywords. It will learn your video preferences and offer you movies and other entertainment choices based on those preferences.

To recap: It watches you, it greets you, it knows you. It listens to you, it never stops listening. It anticipates your needs.

And Americans will invite it into their homes. They’ll love it. They’ll play with it, perhaps even design covers and other modified accessories for its cold black skin.

It will become part of our households. Just another black box you can’t do without.

You don’t have to be an expert in The Chicago Way to see the possibilities of this demonic object. Knowledge is power. The pursuit of power is the province of ruthless people. Need I say more?

Naturally, Microsoft insists that it won’t watch you if you don’t want it to watch you.

“If you want privacy, we’ll give you modes that ensure your privacy,” Jeff Henshaw, a Microsoft grand poobah, said this week.

If you want privacy? Modes?

Such passive language has long been the moist, shadowy ground where the cobra waits for the mouse.

“It’s not the case where you’ll be able to remove the camera altogether,” Henshaw admitted. “But you’ll be able to put the system in modes where you can be completely secure about the fact that the camera is off and can’t see you.”

Isn’t that the kind of thing that techies always say? And then they laugh. Mirthlessly.

This is the part of the movie where the scientist shows you the cute little dinosaur babies.

“This adorable miniature Velociraptor will never grow and never attack its human masters. You can be completely secure,” says the kind scientist.

And you know what happens to him.

Old School doesn’t just go around demanding presidential drone strikes on Xbox One because he feels like it.

He’s spent years professionally studying game consoles, reviewing and analyzing video games for a great metropolitan newspaper. And on weekdays, he helps out with the column. So Old School doesn’t merely think that the Xbox One is evil. He knows it’s evil.

“Because it spies on you,” he said.

This week, the fancy game console was revealed to much fanfare over the Internet.

Gamers and people who just have to have the latest technology in their homes (to make the rest of us feel stupid) were squealing with delight and glee.

It has superior technology making video gaming even more addictive than that of older models. It also has a Blu-ray player, the better to show extreme detail. And serious video game players are expected to love all the features.

“It’s supposed to be great for gamers,” said a young bearded fellow with hipster glasses and skinny mustard-colored pants. “But what I don’t like about the Xbox One is that I’ll have to buy all new games.”


As a dignified journalist and talk-show host with immense gravitas on all matters, I don’t know doodly squat about video games.

And this ignorance makes me extremely vulnerable to snipers on the Turbine map in Yemen.

But this really isn’t about games. This is about a concept Americans have forgotten. We used to call it freedom.

What if I told you that years ago, a man named George would write a book about a futuristic society with cameras everywhere. In the land of Oceania, the news media edited out offensive phrases that would trouble the citizens.

The government could follow you everywhere on the street with cameras (George didn’t think of the iPhone). Cameras even watched the people in their own homes. And microphones picked up everything.

Who’d ever write a book like that?

“It’s not important to us,” a high school junior told me the other day when I lectured at Lake Park High School in Roselle. “We don’t care about the cameras.”

She might not even care years from now, when her children are born and the nice bureaucrat offers to put a chip in her kid’s head, to keep it safe from harm.

Eventually, Xbox One will be followed by another game system. I’ve already got the perfect name for it.

“Rat Cage on the Face in Room 101.”

Now that’s entertainment.

Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He can be emailed at