New Facebook Portal Is Giving People the Creeps

December 6, 2018 • Shannon Flynn


Following recent controversy surrounding Facebook’s security breach, the social media giant is now under additional scrutiny. The release of a new device called Portal is the subject of some debate, and not all the press is positive. Review of the product reveals the reason for its less-than-warm reception.

The Facebook Portal serves the same function as popular apps like FaceTime, enabling two people in different locations to enjoy a conversation in full view of one another. Portal improves on FaceTime’s flaws, however, with an HD screen and onboard AI software. It seems like a fine addition to any smart home.

However, in the context of Facebook’s poor privacy management, the Portal acquires an almost sinister nature. After a leak that compromised the personal information of over 90 million users, placing an item with the capacity to watch your every movement on a desk or shelf is a little nerve-wracking.

On this point, many people agree. Others see the benefits of the product, and there are admittedly many. So what’s the consensus?

Public Opinion on the Portal

Many consumers are keeping an open mind, unconcerned over Facebook’s past issues with security. Considering Portal comes with a button to manually deactivate the camera — and an additional clip to cover the lens — a proactive person won’t have to worry about hackers peering into their home.

Then again, why worry at all? Some consumers hold to the idea that Portal is unnecessary, and the free apps on their smartphone are adequate for a simple video call. They would rather not place their privacy in the care of a company that has shown a disregard for the information of its user base.

Each side has a valid argument, and neither is incorrect. While Facebook does have a history of security issues, it has addressed concerns over the product’s potential for illicit activity with the inclusion of special features. That said, executives haven’t shown complete candor when speaking with the press.

Most who use the internet are well aware of targeted ads, and the accuracy with which a retailer can pinpoint their interests. Portal is Facebook’s latest tool, and its capacity for data collection is clear. The waters surrounding this subject are a bit muddied, however, and lead to even greater reservation.

Data Collection for Ad Targeting

Facebook executives initially claimed that no information collected through Portal would contribute to their ad targeting. They later changed their answer to specify that while Portal doesn’t have ads, data from the device like call logs may inform their ads on Facebook-owned properties.

The product VP directing Portal, Rafa Camargo, apologized for the false claims and made another amendment — stating the information gathered might not see the application in ad targeting. This comment compounds the confusion and does nothing to help Facebook’s case against its detractors.

Rafa Camargo and other executives could have trouble marketing to suspicious consumers. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that their search history is available to advertisers. When a company leverages the private interests of a person for its own financial gain, it’s somewhat unsettling.

Where Facebook Is Heading

Facebook’s new pop-up shops at select Macy’s locations show it’s heading in an interesting direction. Moving beyond the digital landscape with both this partnership and Portal, the future of the social media giant is indeterminable.

One thing is certain, however: Even if Portal doesn’t earn a significant profit for Facebook, it will learn a vital lesson.