"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. The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display which has a focus on video chats.
The cameras and microphones on Facebook's Portal smart home devices automatically track the subject as they move around and minimise background noise when applicable.
Facebook will offer Portal in two sizes - a $199 model with a 10-inch horizontal screen and a $349 "Plus" version with a 15.6-inch screen that can switch between vertical or horizontal orientations. The Portal+, on the other hand, has a 15-inch Full HD display that actually pivots, just in case you want to do stuff in portrait mode.
Both the Portal and Portal+ are available to pre-order today, though as I said they're restricted to the U.S. for the time being. Why?
Still, Amazon has shipped 1 million of its Echo speakers with displays over the last year, according to research firm Canalys, which expects 4 million such devices across brands to ship globally next year. And the company is clearly aware of that - so the device is created to respect your privacy, at least according to Facebook.
In terms of privacy, Facebook claims the calls are encrypted and that Facebook does not listen in or save a copy of them. If you don't want to use Alexa, either, you can flick a switch that disables the camera and microphone altogether.
The Portal also takes advantage of the best part about Facebook: photos. The company has been working on a smart display product for a while, and it finally made things official this afternoon with the Portal and the Portal+.
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Facebook says it won't store Portal video on its data centers.
Facebook on Monday unveiled the Portal and Portal+, directly challenging Amazon, Google and Apple in the fast-growing smart-speaker market with a unique approach that will emphasize video calling.To start a video call, users can say "Hey Portal, call." followed by the name of a connection on Facebook's Messenger service.
It can be used to make video calls to friends and family via the social media giant's Messenger platform.
Do you plan on picking up a new Portal?
To help assuage privacy concerns, Facebook developed a physical privacy shutter that can be placed over Portal's wide-angle camera. (Amazon keeps audio recordings of requests you make to Alexa through the Portal; Facebook does not.) There are no ads on the Portal - at least for now. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use.
They are only available for pre-order in the U.S. at present, priced at $199 (around £152) and $349 respectively.
They said Portal is available at Amazon and Best Buy stores in addition to Facebook.com and starts shipping to US customers in early November. Lastly, Portal only sends those voice commands to Facebook servers which are said after the "Hey Portal" keyword. If you buy two devices together you'll also get a $100 discount.