Facebook Gets into Smart Speaker Market with Portal; Can They Be Trusted?

There is one word to explain the state of Facebook lately: Embattled. It started with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and it’s only continued since then. Just within the past few weeks they admitted they suffered a security breach, and now there are fake duplicate accounts being created, forcing people to tell their Facebook friends to not friend that person, as it’s not really them.

Yet this is the time Facebook is choosing to introduce their new product, Portal. The social networking giant is jumping into the hardware business with a smart speaker, one that will aid you in doing video chats with your friends and family. But the question still remains, can you trust Facebook Portal with your information?

Facebook is offering two smart speakers in different sizes. Portal is available in 10-inch and 15.6-inch. The larger of the two, Portal+, includes a swiveling screen and hi-fi audio . The screen on the larger device can be pulled to either landscape or portrait orientation, and it also includes a 4-inch woofer.

Both devices include voice navigation with “Hey Portal.” They work with Alexa and are scheduled to eventually work with Google Assistant as well.

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Facebook Messenger is used for video calls, and Spotify and Pandora will provide music through the device. Additionally, they’ll provide Facebook Watch content, augmented reality Story Time for kids, a third-party app platform, and will show photos and videos as a screensaver.

So you’re asking why you should trust Facebook with any more than you currently do because of their current track record, but they claim to have taken care of that.

Rafa Camargo, Facebook’s VP of Portal said, “We had to build all the stacks – hardware, software, and AI from scratch – and it allowed us to build privacy into each one of these layers.”

It does not include facial recognition. However, it does run what they call 2D pose locally on the smart speaker to track your position. This is because the camera follows you around as you have a video chat. So the person you’re talking to won’t see just half your face, they’ll see your whole face as you move around.

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A separate chip will activate Portal when it hears the wake phrase. It doesn’t save recordings, and the data connection is encrypted. You can disable the camera and mic at your discretion by tapping it, or you can slide a plastic privacy shield over the lens that will keep voice controls active but shut everything off visually.

It sounds really great, with prices of $199 and $349, but the question of trust still remains. Recently, even Amazon’s Alexa products have had questions of trust with speakers listening when they shouldn’t be and sending private conversations to various contacts. If Facebook still can’t get a grip on keeping social networking data safe, why should the Facebook Portal and Portal+ be any different?

You can’t blame Facebook for wanting to break into the smart speaker market, and this has probably been in the works for a while, probably before the social network started to have such privacy issues, but that question of trust might always be with Facebook.

How do you feel about the Facebook Portal and Facebook Portal+? Can their reputation recover enough so that people will trust these smart speakers with their data? Or has too much transpired that you’d rather just use an Amazon speaker with Alexa, Google Home, or Apple’s HomePod?

Let us know if you think you’ll be buying a Facebook Portal or Portal+ in the comments section below.

Image Credit: TechCrunch YouTube Video

5 comments

  1. Facebook and Trust in the same article?! Surely you jest!

    “they claim to have taken care of that”
    Most convicts doing time claim that they are innocent of the crime they were convicted of. S;ick Willie Clinto claimed that he never had sex with THAT woman. He also claims that he never inhaled. Facebook will claim and say anything that will advance their interests.

  2. “There is one word to explain the state of Facebook lately: Embattled”

    That’s one word. A better one might be “Karma”…if you screw people over long enough, it’s going to come back and bite you in the arse.

    “can you trust Facebook Portal with your information?”

    Of course not…you can’t trust Facebook with *anything*.

    “The larger of the two, Portal+, includes a swiveling screen and hi-fi audio”

    Oh, there’s a great idea: “Hey, lets make a speaker. And hey, we’ll put a screen on it, *blocking* the speaker so it can’t be heard and it can’t hear when someone is speaking commands to it”. What a bunch of geniuses.

    “So you’re asking why you should trust Facebook with any more than you currently do”

    What you *should* be asking yourself is why you should trust Facebook *at all* or why should you even be *using* Facebook. Given everything that’s happening with Facebook, and everything that’s happened in the past, those are the far more pressing questions.

    “but they claim to have taken care of that” “it allowed us to build privacy into each one of these layers” “It doesn’t save recordings”

    Bwahahahaha. Please…it *hurts* to laugh that hard!

    “even Amazon’s Alexa products have had questions of trust with speakers listening when they shouldn’t be”

    There’s no such thing. Why do people have such difficulty with this incredibly simple concept: in order to respond when someone says “Hey Alexa” or “Hey Siri” or whatever the trigger phrase is, the speaker *has* to be listening ALL. THE. TIME. There is *never* a time when the speaker *isn’t* listening, because that’s the *only* way it can work.

    “sending private conversations to various contacts”

    That’s not a Siri/Alexa/whatever problem, that’s a user problem. People aren’t being careful what they’re saying within hearing range of the devices…and then they’re “shocked” and “dismayed” when the device does exactly what it’s supposed to do…activate when it hears its trigger phrase, listen for something in its command list and then act upon it. Once people learn that they now have to be careful what they say, those kinds of problems will go away.

  3. 100% agree with Dragonmouth! No way, no how they can be trusted. Just like Google can’t be trusted turning off the GPS on your phone when you request it.

  4. This idea that somehow technology will have a moralistic view, and will be “trained” to no do what they’re designed to do is ridiculous. Granted there is some technology that over time we’ve grown to not be able to live without (GPS, texting, etc) but this mindset of having devices in your home that listen to everything you say, and transmit data (whether you want it to or not!) is idiotic. And while I’m not condemning anyone who has this technology in their home, I WILL say: you deserve whatever happens, for entertaining this kind of thing.
    There will never be a time when a computer or technology should be monitoring you unless you’re in a hospital and sick. This bull crap about having a device that can “connect” to the internet through your voice command means you’re extraordinarily lazy. This mindset also plagues those who feel that having a “smart” refrigerator, dish-washer, microwave, thermostat, front door lock (WTH!!??)….and other devices all throughout their home. They call it the “smart” home, but in reality? its a nightmare waiting to happen.
    Is it really that far fetched to think that: since computers and networks can be hacked, since cellphones and tablets and other mobile devices can be hacked…….since its been DOCUMENTED that vehicles with smart technology in them can be hacked….that eventually…..the script-kiddies who do nothing but “code” all day and night will figure out a way to HACK your “smart” home? hat happens then?…..when you think your “smart” locks have secured your house but in all reality they’ve already been disarmed?….what happens when you leave for vacation and you come back to a home fire because your thermostat was hacked and cranked up to 90 degrees?
    So Facebook having a smart speaker to me is an irrelevant happening. Because I will not now….nor EVER subscribe to having these things in my home. It just amazes me that no matter how much we try to prevent and block these companies from prying into our personal lives, they find other ways and means to get in. They came out with laptops with web cams and people started taping over them, and covering them with ban-aids, duct tape, paper etc. So now?…the companies figure the better way “in”?…is through “audio”?…and FB comes out with “audio with VIDEO” attached?…like don’t they get it?
    STAY THE (BLEEP!) OUT OF OUR PERSONAL LIVES AND OUT OF OUR HOMES!

    Sad and pathetic

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