Facebook’s Portal watches and listens, but  don’t worry: It’s ‘built with privacy in mind’

In the middle of a struggle to earn back user trust, Facebook has launched a highly invasive in-home product called Portal.


October 9, 2018

Yesterday, Facebook debuted a new in-home video chat smart speaker called Portal — the social network’s first major hardware product.

Hmm, an in-home device that listens and watches users with a voice-activated microphone and a motion-sensitive camera? Seems like a strange move for a company trying to win back the trust of the public, but, hey, everyone’s doing it!

Bringing the world even closer together

Available in both 10- and 15-inch models (for $199 and $349), the new Portal lets you make important calls by saying, “Hey Portal, call Mom.” 

Since Facebook knows when you’re home thanks to your phone location, Portal will ring instead of your phone when you’re nearby, but it does also stream video and music from apps like Spotify, so… pros and cons, people.

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To help convince users the new products will be secure, Facebook included a kill switch for the front-facing camera, encryption of video calls, and the most foolproof privacy shield known to humankind: a lens cap.

But past scandal won’t be Facebook’s only challenge

The smart-home industry is also a ruthlessly competitive market dominated by a tech company named after a South American rainforest.

Amazon and other producers sold 16.8m smart speakers last quarter, a 187% increase from the same period last year. Just yesterday, Amazon released a revamped Echo Show with features almost identical to Portal’s. 

Since Facebook uses Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to power Portal, it will be difficult to catch up to Amazon’s smart-home saturation.

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