Alex Birlo on October 18, 2020

Is SONY Actually Spying on Players?

As of a recent update to the PlayStation 4’s system, when entering a “Party” audio chat, you might have noticed a new notification at the top of the screen sating this “Voice chats may be recorded for moderation. By joining, you agree to being recorded”.

Instantly this created a wave of questions online, as to what this really means and whether or not it is even legal.

Many took the message literally and went on to express their dissatisfaction with the fact that SONY is now able to spy on anyone, but as it turns out it is not exactly the case.

SONY went on to clarify the exact function of the feature and its nature in an official blog post, saying this:

“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.”

So what this technically means is that, no one is exactly spying on you, and technically this is merely a moderation feature.

After the PlayStation 5 launches, when you join a party chat with someone, they will be able to save a recording of that conversation and even send it to SONY for moderation.

Something similar already exists on the PlayStation 4, so for me it did not come as such a big surprise.

Currently, there is an option to include the Party’s chat audio in your gameplay recording, so that not only the sound of the game will be recorded, but also your and your friends’ commentary.

The only thing here, is that in your privacy settings you have the option to either allow or forbid other users to have your audio included in their recording.

Which creates a sensible environment in which you can prevent others from having a recording of your conversation with them.

On the PS5 though, it seems that there will be no such option, as much of the verbal harassment online happens in these parties rather than through the in-game audio chat. And thus many toxic members of the community remain unpunished.

So, on one hand this will be a useful function, allowing us to report people for inappropriate behavior and make the community a bit more civil.

But on the other hand, in my personal experience, players use Party Chat to converse with people they already know and who are in their friend list.

To be honest, it takes a bit of effort and personal consideration to end up in a Party Chat with a random player, who by chance is also an aggressive person.

So most of the time SONY is simply risking this function being their most awful decision ever, since it technically forces you to agree with being recorded just to use audio chat, and thus compromise your privacy.

As the new console launches November 12-th, SONY can expect an enormous amount of both complaints about the function, and horrendous audio recordings sent for moderation.

While we can expect a flood of uncomfortable Party Chat recordings published online, potentially even exposing some notable people in the community.


Official PlayStation Blog post: