Surveillance State: Facebook Rolls Out ‘Home Speaker’ And ‘Home Camera’ To Help You Video Chat Better

Facebook PortalFacebook is rolling out its first-ever tech gadget — and it’s every bit as creepy as you’d expect.

The social-networking giant on Monday unveiled a new line of voice-activated home speakers with screens that enable video chats with friends and family — but critics said they sound more like Big Brother spy devices.

In addition to collecting data on users’ commands with Alexa-powered artificial intelligence software, the Portal and Portal+ speakers are equipped with cameras that can follow users around a room and enhance the sound of their voices when they talk.

“Facebook’s like … look at this cool new gadget that eavesdrops on you and does creepy stuff with the info it collects,’” tweeted Ido Kolovaty, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law.

Indeed, CEO Mark Zuckerberg this spring reportedly pushed back the Portal’s launch date by nearly half a year after the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal blew up.

Anticipating the privacy concerns, Facebook said Monday it is equipping the Portals with a cover to block the camera lens when users want privacy.

Users can likewise deactivate the microphone by pressing a button on the device — although critics noted that it’s not clear if there’s a way to turn it off with a voice command.

In a Monday blog post, Facebook noted that it “doesn’t listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls.”


The social network added that Portal’s camera “doesn’t use facial recognition and doesn’t identify who you are,” and that “You can delete your Portal’s voice history in your Facebook Activity Log at any time.”

But that didn’t stop a slew of skepticism engulfing the launch on Monday.

“Why, yes, please record and analyze the way I move, what I eat, what I listen to, how many guests are in my home, how many of my guests are Facebook friends,” Twitter user Eric J. Schulze sarcastically tweeted.

The products are landing after a year of scandals over the company’s handling of private data that has sent shares down nearly 25 percent from their peak.

Last month, the company experienced its biggest known hack when 50 million users’ profiles — and possibly millions more accounts that use Facebook logins — were compromised.

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