Life Tech Creepy? Facebook launches new video device for your home

Creepy? Facebook launches new video device for your home

Facebook Portal is the company's first hardware product. Photo: Facebook
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The social media company plagued by privacy scandals now wants you to buy its new video chat device for your home. 

Facebook unveiled its first hardware product on Monday – a smart speaker called Portal, which relies on Facebook Messenger to make and receive calls.

It comes in two sizes – a 25cm version and a larger Portal Plus, which is 38cm in portrait mode.

According to the company the device is designed to make video calling easier “and more like hanging out, while the widescreen display lets people share every moment together”.

To address consumer privacy concerns amid the company’s recent data scandals, a Facebook spokesperson told The New Daily it understood how important privacy and security was.

“That’s why we designed Portal with tools that give you control. You can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement, the company added: “Facebook doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you’re calling. In addition, video calls on Portal are encrypted, so your calls are always secure.”

The device is similar to Google’s Home Hub, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod, so you can ask it for sports updates, the weather and control smart devices in the home.

Facebook promises it takes privacy very seriously. Photo: Facebook

But unlike its competitors, the Portal includes a camera and a screen. 

Even though the Portal and Portal Plus come with a camera cover to easily block your camera’s lens at any time, the reaction to the company’s latest product hasn’t been well received.

“I want Portal, but from any company but Facebook,” one user said on Twitter.

Amazing. Facebook has a camera cover for Portal. It knows nobody trusts Facebook,” another user said.

Earlier this year, the company acknowledged 87 million users may have had their data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign and aimed to use the data to influence elections.

And last month, Facebook revealed that hackers had managed to breach its security measures to break into 50 million accounts.

Interestingly, it was recently revealed that even Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has his concerns with privacy and covers the camera on his laptop with tape (pictured below).

Mark Zuckerberg uses a camera cover for an extra layer of security. Photo: YouTube

At a recent product demonstration in San Francisco, executives explained that a tracking camera was just there to frame the shot correctly. 

“Privacy is very, very, very important,” said Rafa Camargo, vice president of Portal.

“We really made a conscious choice of not recording, so you have peace of mind.”

The device is only available in the US, with a Facebook spokesperson confirming it had no launch dates for Australia at this stage.

Facebook Portal retails for $US199 ($280), while the Portal Plus costs $US349 ($494).

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