Backpedals on Portal and Portal+ focus on privacy

Oct 16, 2018 20:52 GMT  ·  By  ·  Comment  · 
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Facebook released its Portal and Portal+ smart displays on October 8, both of them available for pre-order from portal.facebook.com for $199 and $298 respectively and shipping in November.

The Portal and Portal+ come with integrated artificial intelligence tech and are designed to make video communication easier to help you stay in touch with your friends and family.

Moreover, the two devices are Facebook's answer to smart displays and speakers released by Google, Amazon, and Apple and they both came with a statement saying that they're "Built with Privacy + Security in Mind."

We all know that you should take everything said by companies that make money out of advertising and tracking their users all around the web with a grain of salt and, according to a report by Recode, Facebook lives up to its reputation.

A Facebook spokesperson told Recode that "Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices."

Although the Portal support website says that it will only send voice commands to Facebook, a company spokesperson made it clear that this is not the case

Furthermore, "We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads."

According to the very carefully worded "Private by design" page on Facebook's Portal support website, it's quite apparent that the social network made sure that they have everything covered even when the users find out that their video call info is used to target them with ads on other platforms.

For example, the privacy support page says that "Like other voice-enabled devices, Portal only sends voice commands to Facebook servers after you say, “Hey Portal.” ."

It does not say anything about the Portal smart display sending any other data besides the "voice commands," but it also uses the "Hey Portal" phrase to imply that that's the only time when user information is sent to Facebook.

Rafa Camargo, Portal VP, also got in touch with Recode saying about the data Facebook will collect using its Portal devices "[..] we don’t intend to use it. Potentially, it could be used."

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