Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Review date: 11/02/2020
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 dollar fine for privacy failures?). Now they're asking people to drop a couple hundred dollars to put a device with an AI-powered smart camera capable of tracking your every move and an Alexa-powered, always listening 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 history of betraying users' privacy and trust. They've faced record fines for this and have been caught hiding privacy breaches from their users. Just as recently as September, 2020, 90 million Facebook user accounts may have been impacted by a security issue where attackers were able to take over these accounts. This is the starting point for bringing a device with an AI-powered smart camera and always listening microphone that is sending data back to Facebook regularly into your home. Facebook also says they do human review of audio snippets unless you opt out. 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? In the past—from Cambridge Analytica and beyond—the answer to that question has way too often been, NO. We're afraid this device comes with *Privacy Not Included.
Can it snoop on me?
What is required to sign up?
Third party account
Facebook or WhatsApp account is required
What data does it collect?
Name, email address, messages, photos
Voice clips are recorded and sent back to Facebook when you say "Hey Portal." Voice clips are recorded and sent back to Amazon when you use Alexa.
How does it use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record for protecting users’ data?
The Cambridge Analytica data leak (where millions of Facebook users' personal data was harvested without consent by Cambridge Analytica) is old news. Most recently, in September of 2020, 90 million accounts may have been impacted by an security issue where attackers were able to take over user accounts.
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 recently expanded its bug bounty program, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid. But Facebook does not have a great track record in notifying the public of data breaches or security vulnerabilities, so we're not confident.
Does the product use AI?
Does the AI use your personal data to make decisions about you?
Does the company allow users to see how the AI works?
Facebook collects and may review voice data from interactions with the Portal. The Portal also has an AI-powered "SmartCamera" that tracks you as you move in the video frame during a call. These movement-tracking features are processed locally on each Portal device, not on Facebook's servers. However, it is worth noting that Facebook has a clouded relationship with facial recognition. A class-action lawsuit is pending against the company for violating an Illinois biometrics law by using facial recognition without explicit consent.