Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Tech | By Anita Cain

Facebook launches video device, says privacy is 'very, very, very important'

Facebook launches video device, says privacy is 'very, very, very important'

Facebook's new Portal smart displays will make it easier for Facebook users to contact each other.

London- Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is now dominated by Amazon and Google.

Facebook is now accepting pre-orders for the new devices and will be shipping them next month. You can save $100 off any two devices if you get the two pack.

In order to make the Portal hands-free, Facebook has enabled voice controls - all you have to do is say "Hey Portal" followed by the name of who you would like to call to start a video chat. But, perhaps still adhering to the "Move fast and break things" mantra it's famous for, the social media giant has done just that and launched the Portal ($199) and Portal+ ($349) today. Portal includes no facial recognition technology, a built-in physical shutter for the camera, the camera and microphone can be disabled with the tap of a button, and even the camera-tracking feature runs entirely on-device.

Facebook also mentioned that it doesn't "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls" and that calls are encrypted, making them more secure. The device itself is powered by Amazon's Alexa, and although Facebook was originally believed to be building its own personal assistant for the smart displays, using Amazon's Echo probably seemed like a much better idea and solution. This means the ability to do voice or video calls over Facebook Messenger and Facebook Watch integration.

Hardware wise, there really isn't a lot to see here apart from the huge 15-.6-inch display on the Portal+. You'll also be able to delete your Portal or Portal+ device's voice history using your Facebook Activity log. (Facebook previously denied that it was doing this.) Facebook also confirmed that when a user sets up two-factor authentication with a phone number, the company uses that number for targeted ads.

Facebook's release of Portal comes at a time when the social network is under intense scrutiny around the world.

With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls.

The smaller Portal is an Amazon Echo Show style device, which is basically a giant display with a speaker.

Facebook says it won't store Portal video on its data centers. It also doesn't have the best track record when it comes to keeping users' data safe. Whether you're cooking in the kitchen or chasing the kids around the living room, Smart Camera stays with the action and automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

Portal, and a larger 15-inch Portal+ model, is billed by Facebook has a smart home device created to let users make calls to friends and family.

What's unique about Facebook's device is the tech it uses to make the video calls look good. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 74 percent of Facebook members in the US have in the past year taken a break, deleted the app from their phone or adjusted their privacy settings. The Portal does have a few apps, including Facebook Watch for video, and Spotify and Pandora for music.

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