Innovation

Facebook Portal Ships Amid Privacy Concerns

Facebook

After announcing the debut of its video chat devices a month ago, Facebook has begun shipping the Portal and Portal+.

The new hardware comes with respective $199 and $249 price tags. TechCrunch notes that there is also a “two-fer $298 bundle on the smaller unit.”

And yet amid the launches there remain privacy concerns … this is Facebook, after all. TechCrunch said in its own coverage of the launch that there have been “privacy red flags” in place since the devices were announced.

And so in tandem with the news that the Portal offerings have begun shipping, Facebook has also unveiled a blog post that details the company’s approach to privacy and Portals. At the highest level, Facebook says that it will not view or listen to video calls — and the calls are encrypted.  Beyond that, the firm states that it will treat the calls the way it treats Messenger traffic flowing across its platform — which means, explained TechCrunch, that data usage will be tracked and that means, possibly, that Facebook can use this information to send cross-platform advertising to its users.

To be more specific: “When you make a Portal video call, we process the same device usage information as other Messenger-enabled devices,” Facebook writes. “This can include volume level, number of bytes received, and frame resolution — it can also include the frequency and length of your calls. Some of this information may be used for advertising purposes. For example, we may use the fact that you make lots of video calls to inform some of the ads you see. This information does not include the contents of your Portal video calls.”

TechCrunch noted that in reference to data being tracked, “if you have a Facebook account, you’ve already signed up for that. The question is whether you’re comfortable introducing an extra level and bringing it into your living room or kitchen.”

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