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Facebook Launches New Video Chat Device, Fuelling Privacy Concerns

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Facebook plans to put a camera that watches your every move in millions of homes worldwide with the launch of its Portal device.

The tablet-like system, featuring a 10-inch screen, allows users to make video calls over Facebook’s Messenger app and represents its first push into the hardware market.

However, as Facebook continues to grapple with the fallout from its data breach scandal, Portal’s recording abilities are likely to fuel privacy concerns and questions over whether consumers will want to install them in their living rooms.

Portal, and a larger 15-inch Portal+ model, are billed by Facebook as a smart home device designed to let users make calls to friends and family. Users activate the device by using the wake word “Portal” to make calls.

Facebook has also installed Amazon’s Alexa on Portal for smart home functions. Alexa will let users of Portal use voice commands for music on Spotify or asking questions.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Facebook’s head of VR and AR hardware Andrew Bosworth denied the launch of the product had been delayed following a scandal over data privacy.

Reports earlier this year suggested it had been held back. “We had always planned for a fall launch,” Bosworth said.

The devices will go on sale in the US in November. Facebook plans to release them elsewhere but has yet to reveal details.

Facebook has also been dealing with fallout from a hack of Facebook profiles that has seen the accounts of 50 million users compromised.

The launch of Portal comes less than a fortnight after the bug was discovered on the main Facebook app.

It added that all of Portal’s artificial intelligence capabilities were kept on the device, rather than relayed into the cloud.

While the device has a camera, Facebook said that a button to turn off the camera and microphone would cut power to them entirely. The Portal will also come with a camera cover to block out the webcam.

Facebook-owned Oculus recently revealed a new virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest.

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