In the PlayStation 4’s 8.00 system update, Sony made it where PlayStation Network parties are recorded, meaning that there is now some recording of you and your friends having whatever conversations you were originally having in the privacy of your own PlayStation Network voice chats. Following a wave of backlash over the course of the following days, Sony has announced that it’s taking in feedback and is going to do…something about it.
News of this came over the weekend from a post on the PlayStation Twitter account, which said that it was looking into feedback on the matter, but stopped short of saying what, if anything, it would be doing as a response. While it did say that it would keep players posted on any future developments, it never said outright whether the company was leaning into removing recordings entirely, doing something like requiring people to opt into them, or if things would stay the same. The tweet is two sentences long and reads as follows:
“Hey folks – just wanted to let you know that we’re looking into your feedback on the recent changes to Parties on PS4. Thanks for speaking up – we’ll keep you posted”
After the initial controversy started, Sony updated its post on the PlayStation Blog regarding the system update to explain that the recordings were meant to be used for moderation purposes, such as reporting someone saying something awful or harassing other players in voice chat. However, it’s actually not technically happening yet. The feature is meant for the PlayStation 5, but will apply to any PS4 players who join a PS5 user after the system launches on November 12.
“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.”
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After that didn’t quiet the storm, Sony issued a full write-up on the addition, apologizing for not being clear about it upfront, and clarifying that these recordings would not be accessible to Sony without being sent to the company by a player.
“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.
PlayStation gamers learned about this new function in an unexpected way following the recent PS4 8.00 system update. We didn’t clearly communicate this feature or explain why we were introducing it, and we apologize for that. When the PS5 console launches in November, PS5 users will be able to chat with PS4 users — which is why we needed to include an advisory with the latest PS4 system update.”
Whatever the case, it doesn’t sound like Sony is actively moderating and listening in on any conversations, it’s just letting people who might face harassment while playing online have a tool to combat it and keep those spaces safe. That’s the intent, anyway. But people who value their privacy and aren’t thrilled about this on principle. With the PlayStation 5 less than a month away, Sony has little time to make changes on this front, so we might hear something specific about what action the company is going to take in the next few weeks.