Facebook's introduction of a device that peers into people's homes may make many consumers uncomfortable with the social network's repeated privacy scandals, including its biggest-ever data breach two weeks ago that exposed information of about 90 million users.
The company, which saw its trust ranking collapse in the 2018 FutureBrand Index, was at pains to explain the security features in its announcement for the device which is yet to have an Australian release date.
"Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls", says the social network.
The Portal will even have its very own command call, triggered by saying "Hey Portal." similar to that of Amazon and Google. "However, Facebook seems to have made her the Portal, presented on Monday, looked the least threatening", writes Bloomberg. But the company also says the camera and microphone can be "completely" disabled with a single tap.
You can also buy your Portal device via Amazon or Best Buy. They also support group calls of up to seven people at the same time.
The Smart Camera allows for automatic pan and zoom, so everyone involved in a video conversation can stay in view, while Smart Sound minimises the effect of background noise and enhances the voice of the person talking.
But despite having Amazon as a retail partner and the Alexa integration, its unclear that Amazon Music can be accessed via Alexa on a Portal speaker.
Portal has two models, a 10-inch unit and a 15-inch one, which can be used easily because it doesn't have to be held.
Portal has a 10-inch, 1280 by 800 pixel display, while Portal+ has a 15-inch, 1920 by 1080 pixel pivoting display.
The Facebook Portal, shipping in November, is now available for preorders through the device's official website, with the Portal going for $199 and the Portal+ selling at $349. Powered by AI, Portal's Smart Camera and Smart Sound technology allow users to enjoy a more convenient, hands-free experience.
Taylor Hatmaker at TechCrunch makes the point that while the device could be seen as useful for people and may indeed prove popular, the market timing for its debut is pretty poor, considering many people are looking at ways to manage and scale back their usage of the Facebook platform.
Portal connects calls through Facebook's Messenger app, which means that it can connect calls with people who aren't using Portal. Users activate the device by using the word "Hey Portal" to make calls. The market for smart home devices is growing rapidly, unlike the more mature smartphone market, giving Facebook an opportunity to gain a foothold in a nascent technology space. The Portal and Portal+ are two video communication devices for the home. Furthermore, the AI tech runs locally and only commands after the initial "Hey Portal" get sent to Facebook servers for processing. But it also uses Alexa as the voice assistant for the devices. A camera cover will also be provided to block the camera at anytime along with a passcode to prevent unauthorized use.