Facebook has announced the rollout of its new ‘Portal’ smart speakers, which it brags have a camera that can automatically follow users around the room.
Becoming the latest company to enter the smart-speaker market after Amazon Alexa and Google Home, Facebook rolled out a pair of voice-controlled devices that are optimized for video calling.
“Portal’s smart camera follows the action, keeping you in frame and everyone in view,” states the promo for the product.
— Facebook (@facebook) October 8, 2018
The technology led some people to draw comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984, and a quote from the book illustrates creepy similarities.
“The telescreen recieved and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.”
Undoubtedly wary about fears the technology could be exploited to spy on its users following the company’s data abuse scandals, Facebook has even included a camera cover that can be slipped over the lens.
The device also features a single button that instantly disables the camera and the microphones (because you can surely trust Facebook, right?)
Twitter users responded to the video promo with less than sympathetic feedback.
“No thanks, big brother,” said one.
No thanks, big brother
— ColdClaw22 (@ColdClaw22) October 8, 2018
“From the company that sold your phone number to advertisers,” added another.
From the company that sold your phone number to advertisers.
— Torch (@torchatlas) October 8, 2018
“Anyone still on Facebook, you deserve this,” joked another user.
Anyone still on Facebook, you deserve this.
— Crow (@sistercrow) October 8, 2018
Another person imagined a future scenario where Mark Zuckerberg would have to apologize for the device spying on millions of people.
“Zuck’s congressional testimony in 2021: “Did we make a few mistakes? Yes we did. Did we spy on a few million people? I’d like to say no. But we made some mistakes and I accept full responsibility.”
Zuck’s congressional testimony in 2021: “Did we make a few mistakes? Yes we did. Did we spy on a few million people? I’d like to say no. But we made some mistakes and I accept full responsibility.”
— Jeremy Collins (@JeremyCollinsZA) October 8, 2018