Making Xbox Live Safe, While Keeping It Fun

Microsoft's Stephen Toulouse may be known as the man with the Xbox Live banhammer, or the keeper of Live's big book of naughty words, but there's a lot more to what he does than that.

The main thrust of Toulouse's job is to make sure that Xbox Live is a safe place. That means he and his enforcement squad help monitor online activity, checks up on Gamertags and even sometimes deals with the police.

"We work very closely with the community of gamers and people using this system to identify and resolve issues from gameplay problems, to cheating and inappropriate behavior," he said.

One of the ways the team finds problems is by spending most of their days on Live playing games.

"We are out there playing every day," he said. "In the U.S., Europe, Asia."

While there are only 60 to 80 people tasked with checking in on play, they don't typically hang around in a session longer than is required to figure out if there are any issues.

"They actively look for bad sessions," he said.

Once an investigation is concluded Toulouse's team can do everything from muting a person or temporarily blocking their access to Live to permanently banning them from the service.

The team also works with law enforcement when necessary. Microsoft has a criminal compliance team that all groups within the company work with when dealing with law enforcement, Toulouse said.

While they can hand out details about a customer, they only do so if they are issued a formal subpoena in the U.S. or other type of formal request in other countries, he said.

"We have very strict policies about protecting privacy," Tolouse said.

He said the team most recently has been working to try and better educate people new to gaming or to the Xbox 360 about some of the ways they can protect their children on the system.

Toulouse said a recent survey showed Microsoft that nearly half of the people surveyed said they didn't have enough information about parental controls on the Xbox 360.

Xbox recently launched a site dedicated to educating parents called Get Game Smart.

"The idea was to help identify the steps needed to ensure that people use video games safer, more balanced," he said.

The includes learning about the console's rating filter, ability to lock out online play and even the built in timer which can limit play time on the console.

With an 8-year-old son in the house, I love the idea of parental controls, but I still think they need some work. For instance, setting up those controls on my system now means everyone using the console are impacted. Why not allow me to set up all of those controls, not just the Live ones, for just Tristan's account and then password protect my account?

It's still a step in the right direction.

Get Game Smart