It’s a brave new world today: you can purchase a Facebook-powered smart display that lives in your home with a camera and always-on microphone. The Facebook Portal and Portal Plus are not the first smart displays with that sort of functionality, but this is Facebook. The remarkable thing about all the reviews is that everyone agrees the hardware is nice, and the video chat functionality is top-of-the-line. However, no one wants to recommend the Portal because no one trusts Facebook.
According to the rumor mill, Facebook was poised to announce the Portal and Portal Plus earlier this year, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal pushed those plans back. It can be hard to remember a scandal that has since been eclipsed by numerous other scandals, but the Cambridge Analytica mess continues to dog Facebook. UK-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica gained access to a trove of data on 87 million users collected via surveys passed around Facebook. The firm used that data to support the Trump campaign in 2016.
Facebook has instituted new rules for apps and tightened access to its API as a result, but the site is still struggling to move past the debacle. The situation is not helped by Facebook’s apparent inability to control fake news in the News Feed. People don’t trust Facebook even if they continue to use the website. Adding a Facebook camera to the living room is a much tough well.
Cnet calls out Facebook’s trust problem in the title of its review. Meanwhile, The Verge says the device demands too much trust for too little functionality. It has very good video chat and person tracking features, but it only works with Facebook Messenger. The Wall Street Journal’s reviewer refused to even set the device up in her home. That’s a problem for Facebook.
By contrast, look at how Google handled its smart display debut. While Google does have its own set of privacy issues, it’s more trusted than Facebook. After all, plenty of people have Google Home smart speakers with always-on listening around the home. However, when it came time to launch its smart display, Google did not equip the Home Hub with a camera. Facebook’s addition of a physical cover for the camera is insufficient.
If you, for some reason, want the Portal or Portal Plus, they’re available direct from Facebook for $199 and $349, respectively.
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