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

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

As previously rumoured, Facebook has announced their first designed and built hardware devices with the Portal and Portal+ video conferencing devices.

The device is controlled via voice commands, users can start a video call with a Facebook friend by saying "Hey Portal, call ..." followed by the name of the Facebook contact they wish to talk to.

Arriving in the USA 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.

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant in its bid for a slice of a market now dominated by Amazon and Google.

Portal lets users place Facebook's augmented reality camera effects, like those found in Instagram, over their faces during video calls.

"Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls", the company said in its announcement on Monday.

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Portal and Portal+ also come with a camera cover, so you can easily block your camera's lens at any time and still receive incoming calls and notifications, plus use voice commands.

To help assuage privacy concerns, Facebook developed a physical privacy shutter that can be placed over Portal's wide-angle camera.

And it also comes bundled with Amazon's voice interface "Alexa", enabling users to shop or control household appliances. "Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are", it adds.

It can be used to make video calls to friends and family via the social media giant's Messenger platform. It has the same camera and microphone arrangement as the smaller Portal but better sound with two tweeter and one woofer arrangement totaling 20W.

But the Portal, reportedly delayed from an earlier launch by the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, will pay an extra price for Facebook's years of playing fast and loose with our privacy.

Portal locks with a passcode, and its microphones and camera shuts off with the tap of a button.

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Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the USA - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November. When you're not using the 10-inch touch screen for calls, it displays images from Facebook, such as a shared album you choose.

The display is available in two sizes; the standard Portal looks a lot like the Echo Show, whereas the Portal Plus is much larger.

While the contents of Portal video calls are encrypted, Facebook does collect call logs from the device. Other than that, the Facebook Portal is the first piece of consumer hardware built by the social network.

If you're still reading, let me run down what each speaker has. Your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you're calling. And the company is clearly aware of that - so the device is created to respect your privacy, at least according to Facebook. Facebook is about connecting people, after all.

Both speakers feature large displays and cameras to facilitate video calling and other communication functionality.

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