KEY POINTS

  • User privacy could be violated by a new voice recording feature on the PS5
  • The feature will allow players to record voice chats and report them to Sony
  • Although created to dissuade cyberbullying, the feature has other ramifications

A new update for the PlayStation 4 has revealed a curious new feature that would allow the recording of conversations and the reporting of such audio clips to Sony for the purpose of review.

Labeled as “PS4 system software update 8.00,” the PlayStation Blog indicated that the new update will bring changes in Party and Message features, new avatars, and updated parental controls, among others.

One of these changes is labeled as “Mute all Mics from Quick Menu,” which is explained as an option to easily mute a player’s microphone while playing on the PlayStation 4. Although the update initially had no mention of voice recordings, Sony later clarified it further in a post:

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.

It's a bit alarming when first read as the statement noted that a voice chat can be recorded on the upcoming PlayStation 5 and submitted to Sony for moderation review. User privacy is what this feature seems to be stepping on as anything said in what is presumed to be a private conversation may no longer be confidential.

The dilemma of private conversations during gaming sessions getting out of hand has risen in recent years thanks to voice chat being allowed on several platforms. Beyond the normal trashtalking that goes on between friends playing against each other, the notion of cyberbullying someone through voice is also present.

When people team up online or play against one another, having someone verbally abuse others within the group or even outright harassing them has unfortunately become a reality. Still, it seems dangerous to learn that Sony can apparently record conversations when the PlayStation 5 is rolled out.

Players policing each other is the ideal scenario, but if internal actions prove to be ineffective, then this feature, as invasive as it may seem at the outset, may prove helpful in the long run in curtailing abusive behavior online, per The Verge.

Several other PlayStation 5 features such as backward compatibility and PlayStation VR were recently revealed by Sony.

Sony's new PlayStation 5 Sony's new PlayStation 5 will go head-to-head with a new-generation Xbox from Microsoft when the rival consoles are released later this year. Photo: AFP/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU