This week’s release of the PS4 firmware version 8.00 brought with it a surprise that shocked a lot of players. A warning notification let people know that voice chats could be recorded and submitted to Sony for reporting. Misinformation about the feature quickly spread, including alleging that Sony was recording and storing private party chat conversations (which is not true). Sony quickly issued an apology and updated users that this feature was a part of PS5 party chat, but impacted PS4 players due to cross-platform party chat functionality. Now Sony has dropped additional details about PS5 party chats and the recording and reporting function, along with an apology for the way players unceremoniously found out about the feature this week.
Catherine Jensen, Head of the Global Consumer Experience division at PlayStation took to the PS Blog, saying first and foremost that their goal is “to help foster a fun and positive experience when you’re playing online with friends and other gamers.” The PS5’s new voice chat reporting function will allow players to add a recorded audio clip up to 40 seconds—20 seconds of the main conversation and 10 seconds on either side of the selected clip for added context—in order to help the Consumer Experience Team effectively handle the report and take the necessary action.
Similar to how the sharing functionality caches the most recent 15 minutes of gameplay for recording videos, this reporting function will locally cache a recording of the last five minutes of party chat audio. This audio recording will not be available to Sony unless submitted as part of a report. Players will not be able to opt out of the feature. By using Party Chat on either PS4 or PS5, you acknowledge that the audio may be recorded and sent to Sony by other members of the party. Again, the goal for the Consumer Experience Team is to make all players feel safe while playing online, and selectively allowing players to opt out would defeat the purpose.
Jensen apologized for not communicating the new feature earlier. Given the crossover with PS4 parties, the new firmware update on the PS4 console included a disclaimer about the feature that reached players before Sony had an opportunity to discuss PS5 voice chat reporting. To further eliminate worries about being recorded, Jensen clarified that the recording are only used to curtail verbal harassment and abuse via the reporting system. Sony will never actively monitor or listen in on party chats.
“Its sole purpose is to help in reporting of inappropriate behavior, including actions that violate our Community Code of Conduct. 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.”
Toxicity is notoriously present in online gaming environments and platforms have been taking more steps recently to ensure that all players feel safe and comfortable playing their games in a generally positive environment. With many players taking to parties for their voice chat rather than using in game chat—not to mention Sony’s big shift to parties becoming more like multifunction community rooms—they are taking the initiative to set up moderation in these community spaces.
[Source: PS Blog]