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In context: Last week, Sony rolled out version 8.0 of its PlayStation operating system. The update was less than smooth, with many players reporting that the software was causing their system to freeze. Another aspect of the patch that raised a ruckus was the new voice chat recording feature.
After installing version 8.0 of the PlayStation system software, many PlayStation 4 users noticed notifications stating that voice chats were now being recorded for moderation purposes.
Sony failed to mention or explain this recording functionality in the patch notes, so many players were up in arms about this apparent invasion of privacy. After all, who wants Sony listening to your every conversation as you are talking with friends? As it turns out, that is not quite how it works.
Shortly after the backlash started, Sony's Senior Director of Content Communications Sid Shuman explained that the functionality is not available on the PlayStation 4 but is meant for the PS5. However, it needed the advisory popup on the PS4 since users on both systems can communicate via voice chat.
"Following this update, users are seeing a notification about Party Safety and that voice chats in parties may be recorded," Shuman said in an update to Sony's version 8.0 announcement. "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."
So apparently, in case y'all didn't know this beforehand. But apparently the newest Sony update to the PS4 and will continue onto 5 will be recording your voice while in party chat. pic.twitter.com/T0VIbwIpZe— ?TSN | ?Ittarra BooOda?: Still recovering (@IttarraOda) October 14, 2020
However, Shuman's statement did little to quell the discontent among fans. Regardless of which console has the functionality, the point people were trying to make was, Sony should not be listening in on their conversations—even for moderation purposes.
The blowback continued until Friday when SIE's Vice President of Global Consumer Experience Catherine Jensen issued a statement detailing the feature's purpose and functionality in more precise terms.
Sony will not actively listen in on users, nor will their conversations be fully recorded. Instead, the PlayStation 5 will keep a rolling five-minute recording of party voice chats. If a player experiences abuse or harassment, he or she can submit a complaint to PlayStation moderators. In the filing, users can include a snippet of up to 40-seconds of the offending conversation. The feature will tack on an additional 10-seconds to the clip's front and end for added context. So submitted portions of voice chats will be no longer than one minute.
"Please note that this feature will not actively monitor or listen in on your conversations – ever – and it's strictly reserved for reporting online abuse or harassment," Jensen stressed in her statement. "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 also acknowledged the potential for abuse and stated that the Consumer Experience team would use invalid reports as an "opportunity to provide guidance and education." In other words, Sony will likely kindly warn those using the reporting system abusively before dropping the ban hammer on them.
Image credit: Natanael Ginting