Facebook Portal

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Facebook Portal

Facebook
Wi-Fi Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

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 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 Wokplace 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
  • Note that when sharing data with third-parties services, the third-party privacy policy applies.
  • 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.
mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: Yes

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

Facebook or WhatsApp account is required

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Facebook says it does not sell any of your information to anyone, and never will. However, it shares data with numerous third parties such as partners who use their analytics services, advertisers, measurement partners, partners offering goods and services in Facebook products, vendors and service providers, researchers and academics, law enforcement, and legal requests. Facebook says that it does not use voice data for targeted ads. However, the metadata about your Portal usage – how often you make video calls or use in-call apps or features – can be used to target you with advertisements across the Facebook advertisement network. In addition, Facebook collects personal data from its partners. These partners provide information about your activities off Facebook — including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services—whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook. Facebook shares information it collects on Portal with independent apps and services that integrate with Portal. This may include information about a user’s Portal device, such as device name, IP address, and zip code, as well as other information to help them provide the services requested by the user (for example, the text and subject of their voice commands to the app, service or integration through “Hey Portal”). The information collected by these independent apps, services, or integrations is subject to their own terms and policies.

How can you control your data?

Facebook Assistant activates when it hears “Hey Portal” and gives you a visual confirmation at the bottom of the screen. When your Portal hears the wake word, it will start to record your voice interaction and send it to Facebook servers in real-time to respond to your request. When you turn Portal’s microphone off, Portal won’t listen for the wake word, and voice control will be disabled. Facebook says to store data until it is no longer necessary to provide their services and Facebook Products or until your account is deleted – whichever comes first. It can take up to 90 days to delete data. Portal only works if you connect an active Facebook account or use Whatsapp.

You can view, hear, and delete your Portal’s voice interactions in Portal Settings or on your Facebook Activity Log. You can also turn off storage of Portal voice interactions in Portal settings.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Bad

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?

No

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

Facebook has a Portal-specific privacy page with a FAQ section. https://portal.facebook.com/privacy/ Their privacy policy is also clearly broken out into sections so that people can easily find answers to frequent privacy questions.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

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.

Strong password

Yes

The Portal requires you to log in with a Facebook account and strong password. You may also set a passcode for the device.

Security updates

Yes

Automatic updates are enabled by default.

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Facebook has a bug bounty program.

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Facebook runs an AI portal. https://machinelearning.apple.com/

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

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?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes


News

Facebook privacy settings to change now
The Washington Post
Let’s face it. Facebook is hard to quit. If you can’t leave, at least you can make your data as private as possible.
533 million Facebook users’ phone numbers, personal information exposed online, report says
The Washington Post
Personal information on more than 500 million Facebook users — previously leaked and now made more widely available — was shared online Saturday, according to the news site Insider, worrying experts who said the compromised data could make people more vulnerable to fraud.
533 million Facebook users' phone numbers and personal data have been leaked online
Business Insider
The personal data of over 500 million Facebook users was posted in a low-level hacking forum.
Under the hood: Portal's Smart Camera
Eric Hwang, Peter Vajda, Matt Uyttendaele, Rahul Nallamothu
A powerful feature of Portal, Facebook's new video-calling device, is an AI-powered system called Smart Camera. Smart Camera frames shots much as an experienced camera operator would, so that people using Portal feel like they are right beside each other. Instead of relying on dedicated servers typically used for advanced machine learning tasks, Smart Camera does this by performing complex computer vision (CV) modeling entirely on-device, using processing power similar to that of a high-end mobile chipset.
Facebook data privacy scandal: A cheat sheet
TechRepublic
TechRepublic's cheat sheet about the Facebook data privacy scandal covers the ongoing controversy surrounding the illicit use of profile information.
Facebook's new whistleblower is renewing scrutiny of the social media giant
NPR
A data scientist named Frances Haugen has revealed herself to be the whistleblower behind a massive exposure of the inner workings at Facebook.
Facebook won’t even tell you if your data was compromised in the massive breach
BGR
An old Facebook “hack” that impacted more than 533 million people resurfaced during the weekend, as reports revealed that the entire database was posted on a forum.
Facebook paid billions extra to the FTC to spare Zuckerberg in data suit, shareholders allege
Politico
Facebook conditioned its $5 billion payment to the Federal Trade Commission to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data leak probe on the agency dropping plans to sue Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg individually, shareholders allege in a lawsuit.
Facebook documents show how toxic Instagram is for teens, Wall Street Journal reports
CNBC
Facebook has repeatedly found that its Instagram app is harmful to a number of teenagers, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday.
Everything We Know About Facebook's Massive Security Breach
Louise Matsakis and Issie Lapowsky
Facebook’s privacy problems severely escalated Friday when the social network disclosed that an unprecedented security issue, discovered September 25, impacted almost 50 million user accounts. Unlike the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a third-party company erroneously accessed data that a then-legitimate quiz app had siphoned up, this vulnerability allowed attackers to directly take over user accounts.
Facebook's new Portal smart displays: Who's listening and what's happening to your data?
CNET
The tech giant compromised your privacy and broke your trust. Now, it has a new set of "Smart Cameras" and always-listening microphones for your living room.
Facebook’s Portal Device Has A Tracking Camera And Knows When You’re Home
BuzzFeed News
Facebook is currently struggling to reassure the public that it’s capable of protecting their privacy.
Even the Muppets can’t make Facebook Portal seem less creepy
Fast Company
Here we have Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, Animal, the Swedish Chef, Rolf the dog, and other Muppets doing their Muppet-y best to make Facebook’s Portal look like the ultimate communication device. “If you can’t be there, feel there,” says the tagline. It’s a cute, fun spot by agency Anomaly Los Angeles, but there are some things even advertising can’t hide. Like the fact this streaming device features a camera and integrated far-field microphones, making it capable of watching and listening to people as they watch TV in their living rooms. Sure, Animal makes it look like a harmless good time (at the 38-second mark), but now imagine that device in the hands of the same people who oversaw a security breach that resulted in the data of up to 87 million users harvested without permission by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

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