Facebook has been in the news for privacy-related issues for a while now, and it’s in that backdrop that Facebook last week launched its video-chat device named Portal. The social networking giant unequivocally mentioned that it "doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents" of video calls made through the device that is designed to compete against the likes of Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub. However, it has now found that like other Facebook products, the Portal can be used for serving you targeted ads. The ads won't be served directly on the device but based on your usage of the device, these could be featured on other Facebook properties.
In an emailed statement to Recode, a Facebook spokesperson has suggested that the Portal could soon be a channel for gathering information to serve you targeted ads. "Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices. We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms," the spokesperson explained, adding that other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, might also be fed into the information that Facebook uses to serve ads.
Interestingly, Facebook hasn't mentioned this on Portal's dedicated website. However, the privacy section on the dedicated Portal website does say that voice commands passed through the hardware will be sent to Facebook servers after saying the "Hey Portal" hotword. Users can delete their voice history from the Activity Log on the social networking site, though. Moreover, the privacy section shows that while Facebook ads aren't being served on the Portal at this time, some third-party services could soon embed ads in their content.
Facebook's Product VP in charge of Portal Rafa Camargo in a follow-up call with Recode post Portal's launch said that data through the device could technically be used for ad targeting. However, Camargo highlighted that the Portal team didn't plan to use the data for ad targeting purposes because the device didn't run ads.
The Portal has a 12-megapixel camera with a 140-degree field of view, backed by an artificial intelligence (AI) powered Smart Camera feature that pans and zooms to keep users in the frame. Also, there is a Smart Sound feature that is claimed to minimise background noise alongside enhancing the voice of the users.