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Sony Says It Isn't Spying On Your PlayStation Parties

Illustration for article titled Sony Says It Isnt Spying On Your PlayStation Parties
Image: Sony / Playstation

Yesterday, Sony rolled out system software update 8.00 for the PlayStation 4, which added new features, renamed some old things, and for the most part got the old console ready to interact with the upcoming PS5. A notification that party chats may now be recorded began appearing along with the update, upsetting many users who believed Sony might be spying on them. Sony says that isn’t the case and that the message refers to an upcoming feature for the PS5.

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The update began causing problems almost as soon as it went live. Players reported network connectivity issues, slow menus, freezing, and other problems. But what really angered many online were new pop-up notifications that appeared when joining or starting a PlayStation voice chat party, which read “Voice chat may be recorded for moderation.

Tweets sharing images of the messages and notifications began spreading like wildfire, and many players feared that Sony was now spying on them while in private chats with their friends. Confusing things more is that the PS4 has long had some voice chat recording options, as players can opt into being recorded during a stream via the PS4’s broadcast settings. Some players looking for more evidence of Sony spying or who wanted to explain away the new notifications posted images of older settings and warnings that didn’t pertain to the 8.00 update, further confusing the matter.

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In response, Sony updated the original blog post announcing the new update later in the day, explaining that the recording isn’t on Sony’s end. Instead, players on PS5 will be able to record party chats and send them to Sony for moderation. The appearance of the messages now, Sony wrote, is to inform PS4 users of the feature prior to the PS5’s launch. The update reads (emphasis ours):

“Following this update, users are seeing a notification about Party Safety and that voice chats in parties may be recorded. Voice chat recording for moderation is a feature that will be available on PS5 when it launches, and will enable users to record their voice chats on PS5 and submit them for moderation review. The pop up you’re seeing on PS4 right now is to let you know that when you participate in a chat with a PS5 user (post-launch), they may submit those recordings from their PS5 console to SIE.”

The AskPlayStation UK Twitter account also confirmed that Sony isn’t recording you and your friends complaining about your teammates while playing Call of Duty.

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This new popup is likely something Sony is putting up to legally protect itself when the PS5 comes out in November and starts letting users record abusive or annoying party members and sending that recording to Sony for moderation. Some parts of the world require both parties to consent before a conversation can be recorded, so the notification may function along the same lines as when such messages are played before calling customer service lines.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the recording feature makes moderation better, but for now, you can rest easy knowing Sony isn’t spying on you.

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Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.

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DISCUSSION

I understand that Sony wants to control harassment as their ecosystem continues to expand. However, the way they have done this is bass akwards. It took my friends and I literally 10 minutes each to get into a basic chat and then try to form a party. The lag on each of our systems was incredible. We also noticed that the size of our “party” could be expanded to 98 people total. What a cluster that would be. Can you imagine have close to 100 people on a chat at the same time?

Ridiculous!

Now if there was a quick and easy way to pop between multiple groups instantly, that might make sense. For example, I have 7 friends in my Red Dead 2 Online group while I’m popping over to a raid on ESO and then drop in to say hi to my friends playing Diablo 3 without having to drop each party chat to say hello in another.

But, I have heard nothing from Sony or their partners on parties being used in this way. Sony should have offered the opportunity to “opt out” on this new direction, but unfortunately, they have locked us all into a “trust us, we’re Sony” philosophy.

Hmmm, I don’t think so.