XBox recall and privacy

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Tom Keating
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XBox recall and privacy

I received a letter in the mail this weekend from Microsoft about the recall on the power cords on the Xbox consoles due to the potential risk of fire (1 in 10,000 Xboxes). I planned on going to the Microsoft website several months ago when the recall was announced, but just never got around to it. So I've already known about this recall on the power cords, but the really interesting thing is "how the heck did Microsoft find where I live when I never registered my Xbox?"

I bought my Xbox when I lived in a condo in Norwalk over 3 years ago, so even if I forgot that I registered 3 years ago, Microsoft should have had my Norwalk address and not my new home address. Even though I forwarded my old address at the post office, I believe mail forwarding expires after 6 months or a year at most. So just how did Mr. Gates find me?

Let me cite portions of the letter:
"Microsoft has chosen to replace the power cords on Xbox consoles manufactured before October 23, 2003.

Our records indicate that you own one of these consoles. Because you have not yet ordered a replacement power cord, we have enclosed a replacement cord for your Xbox".

Indeed, in the box in addition to the letter was a new snazzy power cord replacement with a RESET button and LED that illuminates green or red. Wow, a free power cord that I didn't even ask for? How generous Mr. Gates, but seriously, how the hell did you find me?

My only theory is that I have a Xbox Live subscription which requires a credit card and obviously a current valid home address. But that would mean that Microsoft transmitted my model's serial number to Microsoft's servers when I use Xbox Live and they then cross-referenced my serial number against their database of pre-Oct 2003 Xboxes that had not yet requested a power cord replacement. I guess privacy means nothing to Microsoft. So what else is Microsoft cross-referencing? If I buy an Xbox 360 will you start cross-referencing or selling information on my TV watching habits (it acts as a Media Extender), my game playing habits, or what music or videos I play on my Xbox 360? I'm going to be reading the Xbox 360 terms of service very carefully since it is a multi-media device with TV watching capabilities, music, etc.

Next time, Microsoft, please don't send me a recall part - just let my house burn, because right now, I'm burning up inside for you lack of privacy consideration.

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