It sounded a little slippery last week, when Facebook announced Portal, a new voice-activated speaker and video chat gadget, and the company said that it would not use data collected through the device to target ads.
Recode reports that although the Portal devices don't show ads, data about who you call and which apps you use can be used for ad-targeting purposes on other Facebook properties. But the social media giant, which has seen its name sullied this year due to careless handling of user data, is working on another camera that will be placed in a user's drawing room. According to Bosworth, privacy and security are the very first priorities when manufacturing their products. "Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads", said a company spokesperson, in an email to the publication.
The device also makes use of Amazon's Alexa assistant for voice control, and it incorporates videos from Facebook Watch, Discovery's Food Network and E.W. Scripps' Newsy, with plans to add other partners in the near future.
At a time when Facebook is under fire for getting hacked to acquire that data, further transparency may be helpful in assuaging fears people may have regarding placing a camera-and-microphone setup that tracks movement inside the home. But even if the original statement about no ad-targeting was a misunderstanding, the fact Facebook appears to be going back on its word could have a negative effect on Portal sales. If that reasoning is correct, it could be at least a few months before Facebook launches its TV add-on.
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Facebook was already facing significant obstacles with its entry into the highly competitive in-home smart device market, and this news is likely to do little to ensure consumers and marketers that personal data is being safeguarded.
Pat Walshe of Privacy Matters claimed that Portal could be compared to Dracula given the responsibility of manning the blood bank.