Facebook’s Portal smart video monitors launch amid security and privacy concerns

Andy Boxall

In App Business. October 9, 2018

Facebook has launched a pair of smart video call monitors for the home, at a time when the social network is under considerable scrutiny for security and privacy scandals. Called Portal and Portal+, the machines link with Facebook Messenger to make calls, and use Amazon’s Alexa as a smart voice assistant.

The cameras mounted on each device use a wide-angle lens to capture larger areas, while a feature called Spotlight lets callers focus in on, and track, a person on the other end of the call. The software also refocuses the image when more people come into the frame, and a selection of augmented reality effects can be used for fun.

For privacy, the microphones can be disabled until needed, and a cap is supplied to cover the camera lens, while Facebook says it does not record or store the content of calls, and all the data is encrypted. However, this is not end-to-end encryption, like Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

The Portal has a 10.1-inch screen and costs $200, while the larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch screen and costs $350. Both will go on sale in the US in November, and a wider international launch is planned for the future.