Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Facebook Portal Go
It's the Facebook Portal, but battery-powered so you can tote it around your home. As Facebook says, you can now chase your toddler while video chatting on Messenger, or show Grandma that pillow fort you're so proud of on Zoom. Too bad the data from your calls, Alexa asks, and potentially even what the camera sees is collected by Facebook (and Amazon for those Alexa requests). Because, let's be honest, Facebook has a pretty terrible track record when it comes to protecting their user's privacy (remember that record $5 billion fine for privacy failures?). Now they're asking people to drop a couple hundred dollars to put a portable device with an AI-powered smart camera capable of tracking your every move and an Alexa-powered microphone in your home. What could go wrong? Given Facebook's terrible track record on privacy, we're worried a lot.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Facebook has a long history of betraying users' privacy and trust. They've faced record fines around the world for this and have been caught hiding data leaks from their users. Just as recently as April 2021, it was reported the personal information of more than 500 million Facebook users was shared online in a massive data leak. Couple that with recent Facebook whistleblower testimony to the US Congress that outlined the harms Facebook causes and the dishonest way they approach dealing with these harms and Facebook appears to be one of most immoral companies we review in *Privacy Not Included.
This is the starting point for a device you bring into your home with an AI-powered smart camera and microphone that sends data back to Facebook regularly. To use the device, consumers are required to have a Facebook or Whatsapp account (a Workplace plan can also be used but those are paid business plans), another flag for us as Facebook collects and shares a large amount of user data and doesn’t always secure that data properly. The question comes down to, does Facebook have your best interests at heart when it collects all the data this device is capable of collecting? From Cambridge Analytica to where we are today, the answer to that question is a resounding NO. We're afraid this device comes with *privacy not included.
Tips to protect yourself
- Check Facebook Portal privacy settings.
- Keep your location data private.
- Stop data collection by Facebook’s partners.
- You can disable the camera and built-in microphone on Portal with a single tap or with a sliding switch. A red light next to the lens indicates the camera and microphone are off.
What can be used to sign up?
Facebook or WhatsApp account is required.
What data does the company collect?
Name, email address, password, messages, photos
Voice clips are recorded and sent back to Facebook when you say "Hey Portal."
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In April 2021, it was reported that there was a personal data leak of about 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries, including over 32 million records on users in the US, 11 million on users in the UK, and 6 million on users in India. It includes their phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, bios, and, in some cases, email addresses.
In August 2019, Bloomberg reported that Facebook hired contractors to transcribe audio messages users sent through Messenger and Facebook confirmed the report.
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Portal video calls are encrypted. All Portal WhatsApp calls are end-to-end encrypted and all Portal Facebook Messenger calls are encrypted in-transit. Facebook says that it does not listen to, view or keep the contents of any video or audio calls on your Portal.
The Portal requires you to log in with a Facebook account and strong password. You may also set a passcode for the device.
Automatic updates are enabled by default.
Facebook has a bug bounty program.
Facebook runs an AI portal. https://machinelearning.apple.com/
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
The Portal has an AI-powered "SmartCamera" feature that tracks you as you move in the video frame during a call. It is done by performing the computer vision (CV) modeling on-device. Portal’s camera does not use facial recognition and does not identify who you are — it uses AI technology to frame a scene. To do this, it determines whether something in the room is or isn’t a person.
Portal also has AI-powered augmented reality features in Messenger and WhatsApp video calling, and in the Photobooth and Storytime apps.
Portal also offers AI-powered voice assistant features. This includes an on-device wake word detection and automatic speech recognition models when a “Hey Portal” wake word is detected.
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Got a comment? Let us hear it.