Facebook’s new Portal device can collect your data to target your ads

Oh, Facebook. When you launched your fancy Portal and Portal Plus smart displays-slash-video phones designed to compete with the Amazon Echo Show, your executives promised us all that no data collected through Portal devices would be used to target users with ads on Facebook.

Which turned out not to be true.

ReCode decided to dig a little deeper and it turns out that just because Portal “wouldn’t” gather up data to target users with ads on Facebook doesn’t mean that it “couldn’t.”

ReCode spoke to Rafa Camargo, the product vice president in charge of the Portal product line, who said that the data can in fact technically be used for ad targeting but he didn’t know if it would be.

Other semantic problems include the fact that Facebook was implying that the Portal team didn’t plan to use the data for ad targeting purposes because Portal itself doesn’t run ads. However, the Facebook umbrella covers a whole bunch of social platforms and interfaces, so the data from tracking potentially hundreds of thousands of consumers in their own homes could be exponentially valuable.

Think about it: People are putting a camera and a microphone potentially into intimate spaces — a device that could track every movement, every item of clothing, anything you eat or drink and what television shows you watch or what websites you visit.

Explaining exactly what data Facebook collects and how it will or could be used continues to be a real problem for Facebook and it should be of huge concern to the company’s 2 billion-plus users.

The definition of a portal is “a doorway, gate, or other entrance,” but what exactly is Facebook’s device a portal to, anyway? The device comes in two sizes at $199 and $349 but outside of video calls, which still haven’t become a mainstream application for many users, what is Facebook sending into your home? It will play Facebook Watch, iHeartRadio, and Pandora but there is no web browser to bring you information from the web, and virtually no social platforms that aren’t owned by Facebook.

We’ll all have to make up our own minds about this smart home device. Here’s what a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Recode:

“Portal voice calling is built in 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. Other general usage data, such as aggregate use of apps, etc., may also feed into the information we use to serve ads.”

Smart Home

You can now make Skype calls on Amazon Echo devices

Amazon's Alexa can now make video and voice calls with Microsoft's Skype audio and video calling. Alexa-enabled devices can make voice calls. Alexa devices with video can make video calls to computers, mobile devices, and Xboxes.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Cars

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.
Deals

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Smart Home

Amazon will bring a 7-foot-tall Christmas tree to your doorstep starting today

If you have fond memories of going out with your family and searching for the perfect Christmas tree, well, Amazon wants to create its own holiday tradition. Starting today, you can order a real, 7-foot tree from Amazon.
Smart Home

Pandora Premium joins Alexa’s Amazon dance party today

There are quite a few streaming services that work with Amazon's Alexa but a big one just got added when the company integrated access to Pandora Premium into its smart assistant and smart speakers.
Smart Home

Plus, Dot, Spot, Show? Which Amazon Echo is the way to go?

Not sure just what Amazon Echo device with Alexa voice assistant you're looking for? Whether you're looking for great sound, smart home control, or a screened device, we've got you covered. Here are all the Amazon Echo devices, what they…
Deals

Suck up the savings with these vacuum cleaners on sale for $100 or less

Keeping your floors clean around the home is a constant chore. To help make things a whole lot easier, we've picked out 12 great vacuum cleaner deals available on Amazon right now, from full-sized upright models to robot vacs.
Deals

The best Walmart Black Friday deals in 2018

Walmart has historically been the undisputed king of Black Friday deals. The mega-store is known for offering deals on products in almost every category, from smart TVs to children’s toys. We're combing through every deal as it is…
Smart Home

Want the perfect turkey? Here's how to make it sous vide

Thinking of trying something different this Thanksgiving? Don't want to set your yard on fire trying to fry that bird? Try turkey sous vide. Here's our favorite way to sous vide a Turkey.
Deals

Make your smart home even more intelligent with a smart plug for under $20

Smart lighting keeps your home connected, helps you saves energy, and makes for an overall convenient living space. If you're ready to step up your smart home game this holiday season, take advantage of this sweet deal on the Wemo Mini…
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Deals

The best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…