The following is an excerpt from APRIL GLASER | October 9, 2018 | Slate.com |
The social network wants users to trust that its new video chat device will respect their privacy. It’s given them a lot of reasons not to do so.
Less than two weeks after Facebook shared that it had suffered the biggest hack in its history, the social network seems to be betting that many of its users might not care. On Monday, the company announced Portal, a voice-enabled video chat screen that’s designed to sit on a tabletop and (if you buy the pricier version) pivot in place to follow users as they move around the room. The device relies on Amazon’s Alexa for executing tasks like telling you the weather or playing music, while the video chat function uses Facebook’s own chat app, Messenger, through which it connects with other Facebook Messenger users.
Portal—which comes in 10- and 15-inch versions that will sell for $199 and $349, respectively—represents Facebook’s first stab at manufacturing and selling hardware that the company designed fully in-house. (The doomed “Facebook phone” was made by HTC.) But this “smart display” is a cousin to the smart speaker, a category that has already inspired worries that it could potentially trample on users’ privacy. Facebook’s offering has plenty going against it—there are other similar devices on the market, for one thing—but one factor is surely the company’s current damaged reputation for respecting users’ privacy. Some consumers—wary after all the congressional hearings and the campaign to #DeleteFacebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, or because of the simple fact that Facebook is an advertising company that runs on people’s personal data—may simply decide they don’t want a Facebook microphone and camera in their home.
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