Facebook Portal

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Facebook Portal

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.

Privacy

Can it snoop on me?

Camera

Device: Yes

App: No

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: No

Tracks Location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What is required to sign up?

Facebook or WhatsApp account is required

What data does it collect?

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

Bad

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?

No

User friendly privacy information?

Yes

Links to privacy information

Security

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?

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 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.

Privacy policy

Yes

Artificial Intelligence

Does the product use AI?

Yes

Does the AI use your personal data to make decisions about you?

Yes

Does the company allow users to see how the AI works?

Yes

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.

Company contact info

Phone Number

No

Live Chat

No

Twitter

PortalFacebook

Updates

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.
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.

Comments

Related products