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Facebook wants you to invite its cameras into your homes, pledges privacy

09 October 2018

Privacy is a big issue with Facebook especially with recent developments which is why the company is putting a lot of emphasis on it. Users can completely disable the camera and microphone on the Portal and Portal+ with a single tap. That means Portal users can call other Portal users, as well as those with Facebook Messenger installed on their smartphones and tablets.

"Our goal is to make you feel present in the same space as the person on the other end", said Rafa Camargo, the Facebook vice president overseeing Portal.

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. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too.

Facebook is also including features like Smart Call and Smart Sound.

Amazon and Google have a new smart display competitor to contend with. The company has revealed details about its Amazon Echo competitor, a voice-controlled, webcam-equipped smart screen named Portal.

The device has an emphasis on video conferencing and comes in two versions - the Portal and Portal+.

Arriving in the United States in November, Facebook Portal is a $199 (£152) 10-inch screen, with two speakers and a high-quality webcam attached, which the company hopes users will put in their living rooms and kitchens and use to launch video chats with friends and loved ones. Think of it as a personal cinematographer: A 12-megapixel camera - equivalent to the one in most phones - identifies the shape of people within its 140-degree field of view, and pans and zooms to make sure they're always in the frame.

If you put it all together and just look at the features, it can easily compete with any other smart display on the market.

But didn't Facebook just get hacked?

Facebook, whose founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recently questioned by Congress about the company's privacy practices, clearly anticipated scepticism about it selling an AI device that can see and hear in your home and as such insists that it won't "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls". The Portal Plus, which features a 15.6-inch 1080p screen and two louder speakers with a subwoofer, costs $349. The processing of users' voice commands happens on the device, not in a Facebook data centre. The cameras and the microphones in these two devices can be disabled with a switch. Facebook will even give you a cover for the camera.

Both devices go up for preorder today from Facebook and Amazon, and will begin shipping in November.

After lengthy rumours Facebook has finally announced Portal, their answer to the Amazon Echo Show.

Facebook wants you to invite its cameras into your homes, pledges privacy