Facebook Admits New Portal Devices Can Collect Your Data to Target Your Ads

Facebook Portal, the social network’s camera-equipped smart speaker designed to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, could use the data it collects to target advertising.

When Facebook unveiled its upcoming Portal lineup, its home video calling devices, it created the perception that the piece of hardware would have nothing to do with ad targeting, thereby steering clear of the privacy and data handling headaches that have plagued Facebook all year.

However, it looks like the social media giant is walking back the original remarks of its executives, clarifying that data collected by Portal devices may, in fact, inform ad targeting on various Facebook platforms.

A Facebook spokesperson told Recode that “Portal voice calling is built on 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.

Although the Portal support website says that it will only send voice commands to Facebook, the company spokesperson made it clear that this is not the case.

“We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms,” the spokesperson continues. “Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads.”

It seems like this is another case of Facebook saying one thing and meaning the complete opposite of that thing. In a follow-up interview, Facebook’s Rafa Camargo told Recode, “I think [my colleague] was intending to say that we don’t intend to use it. Potentially, it could be used.”

So Portal can use collected data to distribute targeted advertising, which Facebook could use to show on its other services, but that might not happen because, for now at least, Portal doesn’t show ads.

In related news, Facebook is reportedly working on a TV camera codenamed “Ripley” that would offer video chatting through one’s television and allow users to stream content from Facebook Watch.