Facebook Portal smart screen to launch amid concerns over privacy

Facebook wants people to invite its cameras into their homes

'Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls.

Facebook Portal comes in two display sizes: Portal, which is 10 inches, and Portal Plus, which is a whopping 15 inches.

The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display with a focus on video chat functions. Facebook promises you can delete Portal's voice history in your Facebook Activity log.

It's not year clear when Facebook will be launching the devices in markets outside the U.S., or how much they'll cost, but we've reached out to Facebook and we'll update this story as soon as we know more.

Facebook is out with its first hardware products: the Portal and Portal+ - Smart Displays meant to live in your living room or kitchen which are primarily meant for doing video calls. The former automatically pans and zooms to ensure that everyone is in view in a video cal, while the latter minimizes background noise and enhances the voice of whoever is talking.

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Facebook on Monday unveiled the Portal and Portal+, directly challenging Amazon, Google and Apple in the fast-growing smart-speaker market with a unique approach that will emphasize video calling.To start a video call, users can say "Hey Portal, call." followed by the name of a connection on Facebook's Messenger service.

Although Amazon isn't listed as a music partner, Facebook's "Portal" devices do have Amazon Alexa built in.

According to Facebook you can either disable the camera and microphone with a single touch, or disable the camera with a built-in cover, while still allowing you to take incoming calls and notifications and use voice commands.

Security is a sensitive issue for Facebook which had 50 million of its user accounts breached by hackers at the end of last month in the latest privacy embarrassment.

The mics go hand in hand with what Facebook calls its Smart Sound technology that's embedded into both Portal devices.

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With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are created to intelligently track you as you make your calls.

But the Portal, reportedly delayed from an earlier launch by the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, will pay an extra price for Facebook's years of playing fast and loose with our privacy. Because the screen pivots, you can have chats in both landscape and portrait mode, unlike the vanilla Facebook Portal which is created to sit in landscape mode only. The cameras and the microphones in these two devices can be disabled with a switch. The Portal and Portal Plus are available for preorder today, and will ship in November.

But Portal has one big stumbling block to overcome: Facebook's brand. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too. "Our goal is to make you feel present in the same space as the person on the other end", said Rafa Camargo, the Facebook vice-president overseeing Portal.

Facebook struck partnerships with companies to bolster the abilities of its Portal devices. On top of that, a screen passcode lets you prevent unauthorized use.

Users will have access to services such as Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Facebook Watch, Food Network, and Newsy at launch, with more services being added later. Since then, people have become hyper-aware of how much their private information is available not just to Facebook, but to ...

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