Right after getting hacked a few weeks back, Facebook announced the Portal, a smart video calling device for your home that they said would respect your privacy. Turns out they didn’t really mean your privacy. Somebody’s privacy might get respected though.

The Facebook Portal has a camera and microphone, and is meant to be used to talk to your relatives, watch videos from social media, and listen to music. It’s supposed to be the new communication portal with the rest of the world, using Facebook and Messenger to communicate with friends and family.

Originally Facebook touted all of the privacy features—you can disable the camera and microphone with a tap, and it comes with a camera cover. And they had originally told the media that no data collected through portal would be used to target users with ads on Facebook. They literally claim on their privacy page that it is “private by design”.

Turns out… that’s not true, as Recode reports:

Facebook has since reached out to change its answer: Portal doesn’t have ads, but 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.

Basically, since Portal is built on top of Messenger, anything you do on Messenger can be used to target you with ads. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

RELATED: Facebook Announces a Camera for Your House. Didn't They Just Get Hacked?

How is This Surprising? Facebook Knows Everything

Please point to where on the Portal it spied on you.

The fact is, Facebook collects and uses shocking amounts of data about you to target ads. They are collecting shadow profiles that include all of your contact information, even if you don’t give it to them. And there’s no way to opt out—Facebook most likely has your phone number, personal, and work email addresses, and there’s no way to keep advertisers from using them to target you.

RELATED: Facebook is Using Your Phone Number to Target Ads and You Can't Stop It

It’s all laid out right in Facebook’s Data Policy page. Since nobody will ever click through to actually read it, here are just some examples from the section where they talk about information they are taking from your device:

Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.

Device operations: information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).

Device signals: Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers.

Network and connections: information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network, so we can do things like help you stream a video from your phone to your TV.


So yeah, if you put a Facebook smart camera in your house, your privacy probably won’t be respected. Maybe you should put some clothes on.

Lowell Heddings Lowell Heddings
Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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