Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Facebook’s Newest Gadget After Data Breaches Takes Video Inside the Home

Facebook’s Newest Gadget After Data Breaches Takes Video Inside the Home

Fast-forward to this Monday, and after the reported delay, Facebook has quietly unveiled the Portal video-chat and smart speaker platform.

The Portal is primarily a device for making video calls with your friends on Facebook and Messenger. Facebook promises you can delete Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity log.

But Facebook understands that some users might be concerned about allowing a device that's always listening into their homes, so it has provided a number of privacy protection features.

Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Call out, "Portal, call Geoffrey", and it'll ring my home Portal or the Facebook Messenger app on my phone.

Facebook has also installed Amazon's Alexa on Portal for smart home functions, a significant deal for the two companies in their efforts to dominate home technology.

The company has been at the centre of several data privacy incidents this year, and also revealed details about the Portal's privacy settings in a bid to reassure potential customers.

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Portal will not display Facebook ads "at this time", the company said, although it noted that third-party services such as music streaming might embed their own ads the same way they do on other devices. "Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are", it adds.

There are two versions of Facebook's new smart display.

The company worked with a USA film director in order to make the camera movements feel natural, said Nick Fell, marketing director for the Portal team.

Portal will cost $199 while Portal Plus will cost $349. Because the screen pivots, you can have chats in both landscape and portrait mode, unlike the vanilla Facebook Portal which is created to sit in landscape mode only.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.

Both devices include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, and are available for pre-order from Facebook's Portal website. The Portal comes with a 10-inch display that has 720P resolution.

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The Portal is available for preorder online and will arrive in stores in November.

But Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer. Smart Camera helps you read a fun story via a simple teleprompter, perfectly framed, while your loved ones on the other side watch as your face and voice transform into the story's characters.

"It´s been a big shift for the company", Facebook´s vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth told AFP before the launch of "Portal".

There are only a handful of third-party partners, so far, including Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Newsy, Food Network and Amazon Alexa.

Earlier this year, Facebook had to acknowledge that as many as 87 million people may have had their data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that worked for the Trump campaign and aimed to use the data to influence elections.

The idea behind both devices is to improve the quality of video calls, so the camera and microphone are able to adjust and optimise what they're doing based on what's going on around you.

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