Sunday, January 24, 2016

Libertarian Dad: The Playstation 4

Being a Libertarian parent, or any sort of parent, today is a challenge. Libertarian's who don't want to watch their children bend a knee to the Idiocracy haven't taken up a challenge - they've taken up a vigilant crusade. In all of the entertaining products marketed to our children is the potential to deliver a message that doesn't align with the knowledge we'd like to pass on. The unfortunate truth is that many of this entertainment is ripe with statist propaganda or some sort of conditioning, with few if any alternatives. In this, I've found another calling - a review of products and entertainment marketed to children, from a Libertarian perspective.

My shock today is a shock that I imagine most parents can sympathize with, regardless of philosophical inclinations. Id like to note that the problems I will describe below I have never encountered on another Sony product, thus I can only conclude there's a degree of intention to the dilemma described.

Below is a cut and paste from a customer service chat with Sony. I will be omitting my personal information, and the name of the customer service representative.

Rep (1/24/2016, 11:49:49 AM): Hello, My name is Rep how may I assist you today?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:50:23 AM): Hello Rep, I'd like to report an issue with the PSN that concerns me greatly as both a user and the parent of a user.
Rep (1/24/2016, 11:52:03 AM): Hello Customer I'm really sorry to hear that tell me how can I help you ?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:12 AM): Well to my surprise, I was ten feet away while my son was using the PS4 to watch his shows on Netflix. Loud chimes were coming in that obviously weren't part of the programming
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:32 AM): I come to take a look, and a live chat session is underway.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:53:50 AM): I'm not a layman. I knew to disable these features entirely once I set up the console in question.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:16 AM): I ask the chat, how did I end up as a participant?
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:30 AM): Other users wondered the same. None of us elected to participate.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:54:55 AM): Most bothersome of all, the ability for people to send me "voice messages" wasn't blocked, despite me setting it up to the contrary.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:55:20 AM): I check on my settings, and for want of a better term, it's "anything goes". anyone can message me, or send me voice messages.
Me (1/24/2016, 11:55:47 AM): Like I said, I'm no layman and I'm aware the burden of privacy falls on how I configure my settings.

Me (1/24/2016, 11:56:49 AM): I want to know how this happened? My son is far too young to have the sophistication to toggle these settings, and I'm left to wonder if I should even maintain my status as a playstation customer.

Rep (1/24/2016, 11:57:20 AM): I see I understand Customer In order to provide you better assistance can you please provide me with :

First and last name

Online ID

Sing-IN ID ( email used on the account )

[Information provided]

Rep (1/24/2016, 12:12:05 PM): thank you for the information
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:13:00 PM): So inn these case when you had the issue you were telling your son was using your account or his account ?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:13:27 PM): My two year old son was using my account to watch a child's show on netflix.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:13:46 PM): Being two, there is no need for his own account.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:14:56 PM): Oh Okay and in the chat the persons that were in the chat was on your friend list ?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:17 PM): No. It was 40+ random users, the contents of my friends list is empty.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:29 PM): Many of whom had no idea how they got into the chat either.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:15:50 PM): The rest of the users, I cannot say.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:17:48 PM): Okay thank you for the information well in these I can see that you account is a master account and when you do like the restrictions for party chat and all of that it will only apply for the sub accounts Customer not a master account
Me (1/24/2016, 12:18:44 PM): I'm not sure if I understand what you're saying. You mean to tell me that despite how I set my settings, they won't apply to this account? Why?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:19:57 PM): Yes that is correct Customer all the restrictions you set will apply for all the sub accounts you have only for them it wont apply for your account because is the master account
Me (1/24/2016, 12:20:43 PM): Why wouldn't my settings apply to the account to which I specify settings?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:22:12 PM): because is master account like if an account that is for an adult the settings will apply for a sub accounts since that accounts are for teen or childs
Me (1/24/2016, 12:23:05 PM): If there's an implication that I have configured my settings, offered by Sony, in a specified way, it stands to reason that these settings are within the parameters of offered expectations.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:24:11 PM): Regardless of how Sony would want to label a particular account.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:26:48 PM): I completely understand but in this case as I said before the restrictions will apply for all the sub accounts that you have Customer on the system
Me (1/24/2016, 12:27:39 PM): Okay. So if I understand this properly, to avoid having these features I will need to set up a sub account for the features to apply?
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:28:49 PM): Yes that is correct once you create a sub account and you set up those settings that account wont be able to do the restrictions that you put
Me (1/24/2016, 12:29:53 PM): Okay - I have to ask what the merit is to such a system. How does Sony gain from this configuration? How does the user gain?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:30:59 PM): Obviously it's not something understood by everyone, as many of us had thought we weren't able to be forced into participation of a feature we thought we had disabled, through a user interface designed by Sony.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:33:35 PM): Yes I completely understand your points but in these we made these features when a parent like you or me dont want that our son or daughter can get in touch with other people that can tell them bad things that is why is that feature that is why works for a sub account since the master account can deal with this since is an adult account Customer
Me (1/24/2016, 12:34:16 PM): So an adult can't disable features they don't want?
Me (1/24/2016, 12:34:43 PM): Now that I understand I can fix the problem, but I don't understand the reasoning.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:36:28 PM): yes because in these can as I explain that option where set like that o you can be able to restring that access to those sub accounts
Me (1/24/2016, 12:36:32 PM): I'm actually surprised Sony allowed such a glaring oversight, as the privacy of the Playstation 4 was championed in it's development stage, compared to other consumer options.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:37:43 PM): I understand that I have a work around, but there's a problem when users are led to believe they've disabled a feature that's potentially invasive, when they've disabled nothing at all.
Me (1/24/2016, 12:38:17 PM): If nothing else I'm offering feedback as an alarmed customer.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:39:27 PM): I know I understand your point in these case what I can do for you is that I can fill up a complain and put your feedback regarding these situation so these can be fix and explain better when a consumer try to disable these options
Me (1/24/2016, 12:40:19 PM): I'd appreciate it, the only reason I considered the Playstation 4 was because of it's desire to adhere to privacy. Come to find out, there's been nothing private about it at all.
Rep (1/24/2016, 12:42:10 PM): Yes I completely understand your point Customer I will fill up these complain for you so our team can put that option as well for master accounts in furthers updates on the system
Me (1/24/2016, 12:42:23 PM): Alright, Thank you Rep.

So there it is. Privacy offered, when there's no privacy at all. There's no need for a second account in our household, the family all has the same expectations from the product. As I've stated elsewhere, the above situation was never a problem for me on older products supplied by Sony. This also hasn't been a problem until today. Among participants in this spontaneous chat were other confused individuals, and other parents.

After re-reading this, I may not have made my concerns clear to the CSR. It seems there may have been a language barrier too. At least the CSR in question wasn't a robot.

In my concerns there is no paranoia. There's a feature to be able to view others record of use. How many times have you launched Program X? For how long? When? Spontaneous voice chat is also a possibility, with whoever just happened to be in this spontaneous chat. My thanks to the participants for being civil. There's no clear indication for how this chat session was initiated either.

To solve this issue, one doesn't have to make a new "account" with Sony, you just need to add a local user to the device in question.

To block these features: If you'd like to block these features, you must set up a secondary user account. Login on the original account, scroll to the right and go to settings, then users. There will be a means to create a new user. In theory, this user account will be blocked from using features that you specify. To block these features, go to the profile prompt, and privacy settings will be the second option down. I will be testing the CSR's advice as best as I am able. 

What has yet to be addressed is how settings that I specified were changed to be "anything goes". Factory Default doesn't even ship like this. There's a good chance I'll be getting rid of this thing in the near future.

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