08 Apr 2021 8:48 AM +00:00

PS5 chat: Sony issues clarification amid privacy concerns

When players learned about a new voice-chat feature coming to PlayStation, many responded in anger, worried about an increase in surveillance.

The idea is that players can record in-game chat and transmit it to Sony when reporting online harassment and abusive language. But it’s no surprise that folks are skeptical.

The erosion of privacy’s been one of the biggest consequences of the social-media era, and most people aren’t thrilled about it. In 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that privacy was no longer a “social norm.” By 2019, he’d already changed his mind, saying, “The future is private.”

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In a new blog post, PlayStation VP Catherine Jensen does her best to clarify the functionality and purpose of the new voice-reporting feature.

“Once the PS5 console launches, if a PS5 player needs to file a harassment report, they will be able to include up to a 40-second-long voice-chat clip in their report — 20 seconds of the main conversation with the other player, plus an additional 10 seconds before and after the conversation selection,” she explains. 

Only the last five minutes of a conversation will be “available” when filing a harassment report. So there’s still the question, potentially, of how much data’s being recorded, saved, or used in some way.

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“These reports can be submitted directly through the PS5 console, and will be sent to our Consumer Experience team for moderation, who will then listen to the recording and take action, if needed,” Jensen adds.

“Some submitted reports won’t be valid, and our team will take this as an opportunity to provide guidance and education. There won’t be an option to opt-out of this voice-chat recording function because we want all users to feel safe when playing with others online, not just those who choose to enable it.”

Ultimately, any significant efforts from big online platforms to actively combat harassment and abuse is a step in the right direction. People have a right to feel safe. But people are also correct to ask what they’re getting into when they’re being recorded, and demand transparency.

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Other methods exist — apps like Discord. And some folks prefer text chat, or even no player-to-player communication at all, because in popular competitive games it’s simply not worth the headache.

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The new PlayStation 5 console is set to launch on November 12.