Facebook Portal this product meets our minimum security standards
Facebook $129 - 279

Facebook Portal

Review Date 11/13/19

Let's be honest, Facebook has a pretty terrible track record when it comes to protecting their users' 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.

Minimum Security Standards

         

Five basic steps every company should take to protect consumer privacy. Learn more.

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.
Security updates
Yes
Automatic updates are enabled by default.
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.
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
Does it have a privacy policy?

Can it snoop on me?

Camera
Device: Yes | App: N/A
Microphone
Device: Yes | App: N/A
Tracks Location
Device: Yes | App: N/A

How does it handle privacy?

How does it share data?
Facebook says that it does not use anything you say on a Portal video call or voice interactions for targeted ads, but data about your Portal usage – how often you do video calls, what apps you open, what features you use – can be used to target you with advertisements across Facebook. The company may also share specific demographic and audience engagement data with advertisers and analytics partners.
Can you delete your data?
Yes
You can manually delete your voice data in Portal or on your Facebook Activity Log. However, the only way to delete all your data is to remove your Facebook account altogether. Portal only works if you connect an active Facebook account.
Parental controls?
Yes
Collects biometrics data?
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.
User friendly privacy info?
No
Facebook does offer privacy information about Portal in fairly simple language, but the company presents an incomplete picture of Facebook's privacy practices. Portal users will need to read through not just the Portal supplemental privacy policy, but also Facebook's lengthy privacy policy. Facebook directs you to submit a request form with your contact info to get detailed information on what data is collected, how that data is used, and who that data is shared with.
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What could happen if something went 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. 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. They also say they do human review of audio snippets unless you chose (and take the time to figure out how) to 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 on you. In the past--from Cambridge Analytic and beyond--the answer to that question has way too often been, NO.

How to contact the company

Phone Number None
Live Chat None
Twitter PortalFacebook

Updates

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.
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.

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