Facebook Portal Use May Affect Your Ads After All



As it turns out, the Facebook Portal may impact your ad experience on the platform. What will that mean for the company’s reputation on privacy?


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As Facebook announced its entry to the smart speaker market, The Facebook Portal, last week, questions quickly and rightfully arose about the device’s privacy measures. Among the safeguards cited: a camera that wouldn’t record unless engaged, an Amazon-powered Alexa assistant that wouldn’t listen unless summoned, a manual shut-off option for each feature of the device, and the promise that calls made wouldn’t affect ad targeting on any of Facebook platforms.

Now, after clarification by spokespeople from the company, it would seem some of that information is incorrect. Specifically, the Portal’s connection to ad targeting are less airtight than first reported. According to an email sent to press after initial announcements, “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.”

Evidently, some of the confusion arose because of questions about if Portal would run or display ads; it will not. But now, it has the potential to impact that revenue stream with the information it collects.

The word “potential” is used intentionally here; Rafa Camargo, the product VP overseeing Portal, went on to say while this means Facebook could “potentially” use that information, there ultimately has been no final decision on the topic—it has not yet been determined whether they will. But this ambiguity, combined with other seeming ambiguity in the realm of privacy (shifting privacy settings, adjustments of affected parties in their recent breach), further legitimizes the worries that have been presented by consumers wary to invest in Facebook hardware.

This rollout misstep feels careless and tone-deaf to legitimate privacy concerns of Facebook’s users and the industry alike. Put another way, Engadget notes, “when you’re already under the microscope for being careless with people’s data, as Facebook is, you simply can’t afford to launch a product with this much confusion.”

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