Facebook launches Portal in difficult times.

The Smart Home device, called Portal, brings new video calling experience and has Alexa built in. Privacy advocates may be worried.

It seems a very inappropriate time. Just 50 million user data were hijacked on Facebook via hack, now the company launches with portal smart home devices that invite the social network directly into the living room. The functions of the devices are tempting and the company assures that no data is stored here and advertising is not an issue. But how safe is the data really and does Facebook really only want to distribute the hardware?

Portal: Like a digital gateway to other places

The launch of Facebook’s portal, a series of devices primarily for video connectivity, but also with integrated AI in the form of Alexa, comes to Facebook at a time that may show where the platform stands. Although the scandals around Cambridge Analytica and the latest data hack did not affect the company in terms of user numbers too much. But the concerns of the users and even more privacy advocates are immense; they are confirmed again and again. Now brings Facebook so the devices with the name Portal. This should be a program, because they allow a new experience of video interaction with friends, relatives, etc.

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The devices have a number of exciting features in store. Not only the video interaction – incidentally also with users who do not have a portal device – is possible, but also the display of videos or photos on Facebook, the sharing of content or the reception of news, music and more of partners like Spotify, Newsy or Facebook Watch. In addition, Alexa is integrated into the devices so that answers to questions on portal are also played directly, visually. Timers can be set thanks to the AI, create shopping lists and much more.

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Also in the business communication could be successful with portal in the context of workspaces.

Beyond the office use case, telecommuting or working from home is obviously huge as well. We think there’s a lot of opportunity there for Workplace to exist as an app [for portal] so you have your personal experience as well, but you can jump into the business experience,

Portals marketing lead Dave Kaufman  told Mashable.

Thus, the two devices, Portal and Portal +, which can be pre-ordered and purchased in the US for $ 200 and $ 350 respectively, offer some features that are contemporary in digital communication and reflect the current state of development in terms of voice. But will Facebook get their hardware sold in times of software problems?

Privacy advocates sound the alarm

As a company, of course, Facebook knows about the precarious situation of its data security. That’s why it says under Portal under the phrase Private by Design also:

It has clear and simple settings, so you stay in control.

It states that the camera and microphone can be turned off at any time while the smart camera does not operate on the Facebook servers but on the local portal itself. This should ensure more security of the data. In addition, the voice history can be deleted at portal and, very centrally:

Facebook does not listen to, or keep track of the contents of your video video calls. Your Portal conversations between you and the people you are calling.

With these tips, Facebook wants to convince users that the devices for a smart home are not only innovative but also safe. In addition, a Social Network employee stated that it was not planned to bring ads to people’s living rooms through the screens.

A queasy feeling should remain with the purchase of the devices, however. On the one hand, a hack does not seem to exclude even the most personal conversations about the devices. Facebook has not been able to ensure in the past few years that data is fully secured. And it’s clear that in the long term, such strong visual communication will be a lure to commercial breaks. This begs the question: does Facebook really want to generate any data here, especially since that would happen via Alexa anyway? Do you just want to sell a good device and make money from the hardware? This may still be the primary intention. But at the latest when the advertising inventory on Facebook, in Messenger and WhatsApp and on Instagram is exhausted,

Can users be sure of the use of portal as pure communication devices, with the knowledge of Facebook’s business fields and the knowledge of their problems?

This is currently unlikely. Anyone who buys portal for home, therefore, needs a portion of equanimity or great confidence in the battered social media. But trust is the one currency that Facebook currently can not claim for itself. That’s why it will be all the more exciting to see where the journey with Portal goes.

amardeep kaushal

Blogger, Marketer & Data Analyst.

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