Planning to get in early on the Portal phenomenon? Facebook announced today that it’s starting to ship the video chat device. The company’s first true piece of devoted hardware comes in two configurations: the Echo Show-like Portal and the larger Portal+, which run $199 and $349, respectively. There’s also a two-fer $298 bundle on the smaller unit.
The device has raised some privacy red flags since it was announced early last month. The company attempted to nip some of the those issues in the bud ahead of launch — after all, 2018 hasn’t been a great year for Facebook privacy. The site also hasn’t done itself any favors by offering some murky comments around data tracking and ad targeting in subsequent weeks.
In the post, Facebook also promises to treat conversations on Portal the way it does all Messenger experiences. That means while it won’t view the calls, it does indeed track data usage, which it may later use to serve up cross-platform ads.
“When you make a Portal video call, we process the same device usage information as other Messenger-enabled devices,” Facebook writes. “This can include volume level, number of bytes received, and frame resolution — it can also include the frequency and length of your calls. Some of this information may be used for advertising purposes. For example, we may use the fact that you make lots of video calls to inform some of the ads you see. This information does not include the contents of your Portal video calls.”
In other words, it’s not collecting personally identifying data, but is tracking information. And honestly, if you have a Facebook account, you’ve already signed up for that. The question is whether you’re comfortable introducing an extra level and bringing it into your living room or kitchen.