This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) released system software update v8.00 for the PS4 on October 14, and along with it notified that "party voice chats may be recorded" and that "other users can send them to SIE.”
In response to this, some users were concerned that their voices were being heard by SIE without their consent, and SIE has provided a detailed explanation on the PlayStation blog.
After the system software update, when users create a party for the first time, the following pop-up will now appear.
We want PlayStation Network to be fun for everyone, which is why we have a Community Code of Conduct.
Please be aware that voice chats in parties may be recorded and sent to us by other users. By participating in voice chats, you agree to your voice being recorded.
When behaviours that violate the Community Code of Conduct are reported, PlayStation Safety will review the reports to check if there have been genuine violations.
These recordings will only be used for safety and moderation purposes by PlayStation Safety.
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
The Playstation blog added that if a PS4 user participates in a chat with a PS5 user (post-launch), they may submit those recordings from their PS5 console to SIE. In other words, PS4 doesn't have this feature and it's only a PS5 feature, so PS4 users may be recorded when playing with PS5 users.
Perhaps that didn't help to put users' fears to rest, and the head of Global Consumer Experience apologized for not explaining the reasoning behind the introduction of the feature and detailed how it works on the Playstation blog.
Update: Details on new voice chat functionality coming to PS5: https://t.co/WKC3XPnZ1B— PlayStation (@PlayStation) October 16, 2020
According to the statement, 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). Only the most recent five minutes of a Voice Chat will be available for a player to use for this reporting function.
And they also promise that the recording feature is only intended to help in reporting of inappropriate behavior, including actions that violate the Community Code of Conduct, and that there will be no active monitoring or eavesdropping on conversations. Furthermore, the reason why the recording function cannot be opted-out is that "we want all users to feel safe when playing with others online".
The uproar cannot be dismissed as just a "user misunderstanding". GameSpot points out that in some parts of the United States, recording someone's voice without their consent is illegal and involves a legality issue. In fact, Kinect, the Xbox 360's gesture and voice controller, was also considered problematic for recording voice, and there was an option to turn off voice recording.
The official description only states that SIE representatives will not actively monitor your conversations, and there's no mention of whether or not the recorded audio is automatically sent to the server (although the word "submit" makes it more likely that it's stored locally within the PS5), but at any rate, it will widely be understood that the intention is to reduce harassment and bullying in voice chats and create an environment where players can feel comfortable.
This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.