THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has surprised no one with the admission that its always-listening Portal device is slurping up data that will be used for ad targeting.
The speaker has yet to go on sale, but Facebook is already walking back the original remarks of its executives, clarifying that data collected by the so-called smart hub may be used ad targeting across various Facebook platforms.
Rafa Camargo, the Facebook VP in charge of Portal, explained to Recode that the confusion may have stemmed from the fact that Portal doesn't run ads. However, he clarified that data about who you call and data about which apps you use on Portal can be used to target you with ads on other Facebook-owned properties.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: "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."
"We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads."
This is hardly surprising given Facebook's ad-fuelled business model. In its last quarterly report, Facebook said it earned $13.23bn in revenues, $13bn of which came from ads, up 42 per cent from a year prior.
Facebook isn't alone in its data-slurping ambitions. Reports claim that Amazon is in discussions with multi-nationals who want to offer sponsored responses to questions you ask Alexa, and Google has, more brazenly, started experimenting with adverts on its Home devices.
However, the launch of its Portal comes at an awkward time for Facebook, as the company faces backlash and regulatory scrutiny following a chain of scandals, from Cambridge Analytica to the hack of 30 million users' personal data.
The Facebook Portal will be on sale next month in the US for $199-$349 and, er, you probably shouldn't buy one. μ
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