Facebook swears Portal devices won’t spy, but will use data for adverts

Following the launch of three new camera-toting smart home gadgets – Portal, Portal Mini and Portal TV – Facebook has clarified its stance on data usage amid privacy concerns. 

Firstly, Facebook promises it will never use the Portal devices to “listen to, view or keep the contents of your Portal video calls, or use this information to target ads”. This means you shouldn’t need to worry about the contents of your conversations being snooped upon during video calls or when you’re about the house while the microphone is activated.

Related: Hands on: Facebook Portal TV Review

Ever been convinced you’ve started seeing adverts for a particular product after mentioning it to your friends in front of your smart home product? Facebook assures this won’t happen with Portal in its privacy statement. As a smart assistant, whether you’re using Alexa or Portal, the microphones will only register dialogue that follows the corresponding buzzword of “Alexa” or “Hey Portal”.

It’s worth noting exchanges with Portal or Alexa will be – like with any other smart assistant – recorded and used by Facebook or Amazon to help improve experience, but will never be used to target adverts. So that’s another privacy box you can tick off.

What’s more, Facebook says in its Privacy and Security section for Portal that all video calls are encrypted. This not only prevent Facebook accessing it, but also prevents third-party snoops from hacking into your feed.

Related: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Review

But while Facebook said it won’t snoop the contents of your video calls, the social media company did clarify it will collect and use data regarding how you use the product for targeted advertising.

What does this exactly mean? Facebook listed some examples of data it will collect from Portal users:

  • How often you use a feature or app
  • Volume level
  • Number of bytes received
  • Frame resolution
  • Frequency and length of calls

Facebook said it will use the above information to get a better understanding of how its Portal devices are being used so they can attempt to improve the products in future updates.

Facebook also admitted it will use the above data for targeted adverts, offering the example that if you make a lot of video calls you might start seeing adverts on Facebook pop up in relation to video calling.

Such a strategy is not exclusive to the Portal lineup of gadgets of course, with any device with the Messenger app installed gathering and using data in the same fashion.

You won’t be seeing any Facebook adverts on Portal though, with those reserved for your social media browsing on separate devices. That’s not to say Portal devices are advert free though, with Facebook confirming you may see ads from third-party apps such as music partners.

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