Facebook Reportedly Delaying Launch of Smart Speakers Amid Data Controversy

Facebook is reportedly planning to delay the launch of its new smart speakers.

According to a new report from Bloomberg citing “sources familiar with the matter,” due to the current scandal surrounding the company, it has decided to delay the launch until sometime later this year. Had the controversy around Cambridge Analytica not happened, we might have seen these new products showcased at the company’s developer conference in May.

Facebook is said to be creating a video-centric smart speaker codenamed “Aloha.” The device, which is also believed to be called Portal, features a touchscreen display that would users to watch videos and initiate video chat with friends.

Another device that Facebook appears to be working on is a smart speaker codenamed “Fiona.” Portal would be the superior model between the two, but it’s still unclear how “Fiona” will differ from its sibling. Both devices are expected to feature a voice assistant created by Facebook.

Smart home products are a data-mining feast. In order for them to work, they must collect information from people who use them: someone’s location, email, sleeping patterns, vacation schedule and often access to their router. There’s also biometric data collected from someone’s voice and speaking patterns to their fingerprint. There’s a lot of trust given to connected devices and the brands that peddle them. Facebook is hardly in a position to ask anyone for that right now.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been called to testify before Congress over the incident, and may find himself hard-pressed to explain why Facebook let app developers access extensive data on users who hadn’t willingly sharing it.

The Federal Trade Commission is also reportedly investigating whether company’s practices constitute a violation of a 2011 regulatory agreement, something that could result in staggering fines.

So we’ll go out on a limb here and say that yes, this might indeed be a bad time to introduce a line of physical products whose purpose in the home is to collect monetizable data on users.