Facebook's latest product, its $200 Portal video-calling device, is now on sale for U.S. buyers. The voice-activated smart camera features built-in Alexa support, Facebook Messenger integration, and a slew of other options meant to echo that of devices like Amazon's Echo and Google Home.
Unfortunately, despite Facebook's clams that the new Portal line doesn't listen in on users or use their information for nefarious purposes, it still does – which does little to quell anyone's perfectly justifiable privacy concerns about the products.
Facebook insists on its official Portal product site that it doesn't "listen to, view, or keep the contents" of your Portal video calls, and that "your Portal conversations stay between you and the people you're calling." There's also the camera cover to block the lens for added privacy, but that does little when the company is still sharing data that you haven't consented to.
What kind of personal data does Facebook's Portal use?
"When you use Portal, we process the same kinds of information as when you use Facebook products on your other devices," Facebook announced in a blog post regarding the Portal. "Some of this information, including the fact that you logged into your account or how often you use a feature or app, may be used to inform the ads you see across Facebook."
Essentially, by using the device, you're giving Facebook license to use your private usage data to "improve" your experience and color the type of ads the service will show you.
"While we don’t listen to, view or keep the contents of your Portal video calls, or use this information to target ads, we do process some device usage information to understand how Portal is being used and to improve the product," Facebook continued.
The privacy issues at risk here may not be as severe as some have imagined, but Facebook is still using your data in ways that you may find unsavory. Many products and services have a way for users to "opt out" of these clauses, so the idea that Facebook is using data like this without offering a way to decline being included is bizarre and a bit unsettling.
Given Facebook's spotty track record when it comes to protecting user privacy, this doesn't bode well for the social network.
What's coming from the company next? Hopefully not news that the Portal products harvest more data than we originally thought they did. Right now, if you plan on purchasing or using the Portal or Portal+ in your home, know that your conversations could be coloring the data Facebook is constantly collecting on you for the future.
How about taking a break from Facebook?
After the Cambridge Analytica fiasco and the recent massive data breach, it's essential that you secure your Facebook data as much as possible. But there are only so many ways to use Facebook and still be protected. If you are feeling apprehensive about Facebook right now, you can take a break by either deactivating it or part with it for good by deleting it completely.
If you don't want to leave but want to take a break, tap or click here for steps to take to deactivate.
Had enough of all the Facebook data security lapses? Here's how to delete your Facebook account for good.
Bonus: Facebook is alienating millions
Facebook knows how to make its members mad. Why they keep doing it is the big question. Listen to Kim talk about Facebook and its need for more and more data. Tap or click below for an episode of Consumer Tech Update.
How to delete your Facebook account
Deleting your account means permanently erasing everything you've ever put on Facebook. Your account will cease to exist. If that's your goal, then here's how to do it.