amid privacy scandals and data breaches facebook‘s year of security issues was enough to scare people off their feeds for all of about 2 minutes. it did however leave a psychological scar deep enough and worth recalling after it announced that it had entered into the smart speaker market. revealing facebook portal a week ago, an in-home, voice-activated, screen/speaker combo, alongside keen claims stressing that no data would be collected via the device, it felt as though facebook was trying to deliver us all a little trojan horse.
aware of this inevitable reception, facebook’s marketing spiel put an emphasis on privacy. of the portal‘s somewhat predictable and yet still unusual USP’s, ‘private by design‘ was a standout, as was the over emphasis on clear and simple settings, not to mention the camera cover to calm the super paranoid among us. facebook also stated that the device had no video recording capabilities, nor did it collect data: ‘facebook doesn’t listen to, view or keep the contents of your portal video calls’, it reads on the official portal website. ‘your portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling.’ the social networking giant doth protest too much?
images courtesy of facebook
yes and here is why. when first writing about facebook portal, recode’s kurt wagner wrote: ‘no data collected through portal — even call log data or app usage data, like the fact that you listened to spotify — will be used to target users with ads on facebook.’ wagner was told that by the facebook executives demonstrating portal for him. however, recode reports that, more than a week later, facebook has reviewed part of its claims…
‘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’, a spokesperson said in an email to recode. ‘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.’
it proved even more confusing when recode called the company to clarify. rafa camargo, product manager for the facebook portal, said that while the data could be used for ad targeting, the company doesn’t intend to do so – nor is she sure it actually will be, although ‘potentially, it could be used.’
at a time when facebook needs to show a united front, when it comes to handling our data, it seems the team delivering the very thing to define this new frontier may have broken off at some point. facebook is still dealing with the fallout of a data breach that affected up to 30 million users. a flaw in the system allowed hackers to access personal information including email info and phone numbers plus their username, gender, education, work, and the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in. all of which might make you consider crossing off facebook portal from your amazon wish list and replacing it with an ipad.