Many have questioned the timing of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) long-awaited Portal announcement, which came less than two weeks after the company disclosed a security breach that it initially estimated could have impacted upwards of 90 million users (the company has since revised this figure down to 29 million). Unveiling a Facebook camera that uses artificial intelligence to track you almost immediately after disclosing a major security flaw that will contribute to people's trust issues with the company seemed astoundingly oblivious.
Might as well double down!
Facebook wants the big screen
Cheddar reports that Facebook is working on a device that can turn your TV into a video-calling device similar to Portal. The gadget, which will include a camera, would sit on top of a TV and allow users to make video calls, as well as watch things on Facebook's Watch platform. Facebook has dubbed the project "Ripley" internally, according to the report, and it uses much of the same underlying technology as Portal, such as the tracking technology.
Facebook is reportedly targeting an early 2019 unveiling, although that timeline is subject to change due to a variety of factors.
About those trust issues
Portal hasn't even officially shipped yet, but the privacy concerns around the device are already mounting. Anticipating criticism, Facebook had initially said that it would not use any data collected by Portal for advertising purposes like targeting. The company was also quick to say it doesn't monitor or retain data around video calls, and that there would be no Facebook ads anywhere on the device "at this time," leaving open the possibility of ad insertion later on.
It turns out that Facebook will use some of the collected data for ad targeting purposes, according to Recode. While Portal still won't have any ads directly, the data around who users call or what apps people are using on Portal very much can be used for ad targeting, Facebook conceded in a remarkable reversal today. That's because Portal's voice calling is built on the company's Messenger infrastructure, so the service will collect the same types of data that Messenger does.
Facebook product exec Rafa Camargo explained to the outlet that there was a misunderstanding with how Facebook communicated the technical details. What Facebook really meant to say was that it can use the data but doesn't intend to. How reassuring.
Trust is hard to regain
Facebook's efforts to push deeper into consumer hardware are being directly undermined by its ongoing privacy snafus. The company is failing to reassure users that it takes safety and security seriously, especially when it can't even properly explain how its own products will or won't use any user data that is harvested.
Portal will be a commercial flop, and so will this rumored TV camera.