Portal
Main page of Wikipedia displayed on a Facebook Portal Mini
DeveloperMeta Platforms
ManufacturerMeta Platforms
TypeSmart display
Release dateNovember 8, 2018; 3 years ago (2018-11-08)
Operating systemAndroid-based
InputVoice commands
Websiteportal.facebook.com

Portal (also known as Facebook Portal) is a brand of smart displays and videophones originally released in 2018 by Meta Platforms (then Facebook Inc.).[1][2] The product line consists of four models (Portal, Portal+, Portal TV, and Portal Go) that provide video chat via Messenger and WhatsApp, augmented by a camera that can automatically zoom and track people's movements.[3] The devices are integrated with Amazon's voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa.[2][4][5] Meta uses some types of data collected from Portal devices for targeted advertising.

Reviewers rated the Portal line's video and audio handling capabilities positively, but criticized Facebook's privacy practices for data captured by Portal devices.

History

On October 8, 2018, Facebook, Inc. announced the sale and shipment of the 10.1-inch (25.7 cm) Portal and the 15.6-inch (39.6 cm) Portal Plus.[6][7] The second generation of Portal devices was announced on September 18, 2019; the second-generation Portal and Portal Mini were released on October 15, while Portal TV was released on November 5.[8][9] On September 21, 2021, Facebook announced 2 new devices, a battery powered 10-inch device called "Portal Go" and a new generation of the 14-inch device called "Portal+".[10][11][12]

Devices

Portal

Portal was the original 10.1-inch (25.7 cm) device released in 2018. The second generation device in 2019 also supported portrait orientation, which was much more convenient when video calling someone on a smart phone, typically held in portrait orientation.

Portal+

The original 15.6-inch (39.6 cm) Portal+ was released in 2018 alongside the smaller Portal. This product was not upgraded in the 2019 releases. In 2021, a slightly smaller 14-inch (35.6 cm) new Portal+ was released which, like the previous version, is fixed in landscape orientation but has a mechanism to tilt the screen.

Portal Mini

Portal Mini was introduced in 2019 alongside the second generation Portal. It was a similar form factor allowing use in either portrait or landscape orientation. The Mini was discontinued after the 2021 release cycle.[11]

Portal TV

Portal TV was released in September 2019 alongside the second generation portal. This device has a form factor similar to the Microsoft Kinect with a built in camera and microphone but no display. It connects to a TV, enabling the TV to have features similar to other devices in the Portal family.[13]

Portal Go

Portal Go was first introduced in Fall 2021. This 10.1-inch (25.7 cm) device is a similar design to the first generation Portal only offering landscape mode. This is the first battery powered Portal device allowing the user to remove it from the charging cradle and relocate it to other locations without powering down.[11]

Portal for Business

Portal for Business is a software package announced in Fall 2021 under the Portal brand. This configuration allows any of the portal devices to operate as conference room machines supporting various third-party calling platforms as well as ties into business applications such as calendar.[12]

Privacy

According to Facebook, the Portal devices only record audio after the user speaks the "Hey Portal" command, and only record video during video calling sessions.[14] Each Portal device also includes a cover that can be slid over the camera when not in use.[15]

During the product announcement, Facebook initially claimed that data obtained from Portal devices would not be used for targeted advertising.[14] One week after the announcement, Facebook changed its position and stated that "usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls" and "general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads".[16][17] The company later clarified that it analyzes the metadata, not the content, of video calls made through Portal devices.[18]

Reception

Critical reception

First generation

Dan Seifert of The Verge found the video and audio quality of Portal's video calling feature via Facebook Messenger to be better than that of competing devices and videotelephony services, but said that "Outside of video calling, the Portal's functionality is rather limited." In light of the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, he expressed concerns that the product is "always-watching and always-listening".[7] Megan Wollerton of CNET praised the device's autotracking wide-angle cameras, which allow the subject to remain centered in the device's field of view. Wollerton also had reservations regarding Facebook's privacy policy in relation to Portal's video calls and wrote, "a spokesperson told us that Facebook will, in fact, track information about calls made via Portal to expand on the user profiles it uses to inform ads that show up elsewhere."[19]

In a PC Magazine review, Sascha Segan said, "From a purely technical standpoint, this is by far the best video calling appliance we've seen", and believed that Portal would be a good complement for remote workers if it gains integration with Workplace by Facebook, a feature that is not yet released. However, Segan considered Portal a "horror" from "a policy and privacy perspective" because of the "massive abuses of data on Facebook's consumer platform".[20] Writing for Tom's Guide, Mike Prospero and Monica Chin criticized the "large and obtrusive" size of the display, characterizing it as "dystopian" and "more at home in a Black Mirror episode than in my living room or kitchen". The reviewers echoed "Ongoing privacy concerns", but presented a favorable impression of Portal's automatic panning and audio quality.[21]

Second generation

In Engadget, Nicole Lee complimented the second-generation Portal's subdued appearance and ability to be used in both portrait and landscape orientations.[22] Adrienne So of Wired highlighted Portal's video tracking and augmented reality features, but denounced Facebook's inclination to "default to sharing more, not less".[23]

Segan's review of the Portal TV in PC Magazine contrasted the device's competitive video calling capabilities with its "thin" support for streaming media services, and criticized Facebook's data security record.[24] In a negative CNET review, Wollerton stated that the Portal TV is "a solidly performing, decently priced device that just isn't suited for anyone because of the privacy concerns and increasingly alarming issues" affecting Facebook.[25]

Reviews posted on Amazon by Facebook employees

On January 17, 2019, The New York Times columnist Kevin Roose posted on Twitter that Facebook Portal's Amazon product listing contained five-star reviews that appeared to have been written by Facebook employees,[26][27][28] including one who claimed to have "historically not been a big Facebook or other social media user" before purchasing Portal.[29][30] These reviews were written in violation of Amazon's community guidelines, which forbid "creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative's, close friend's, business associate's, or employer's) products or services".[31][32] In response, Facebook's augmented and virtual-reality vice president Andrew Bosworth stated that the reviews were "neither coordinated nor directed from the company" and indicated that Facebook would instruct the employees to remove them.[33][34][35]

References

  1. ^ Calore, Michael (October 8, 2018). "Facebook Made You a Smart-Home Device With a Camera on It". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028.
  2. ^ a b Kelion, Leo (October 8, 2018). "Facebook Portal video chat screens raise privacy concerns". BBC News.
  3. ^ Constine, John (October 8, 2018). "Facebook launches Portal auto-zooming video chat screens for $199/$349". TechCrunch.
  4. ^ Newman, Peter (October 9, 2018). "Facebook unveils Alexa-powered Portal smart speakers". Business Insider.
  5. ^ Smith, Dave (October 15, 2018). "The curious timing of Facebook's first hardware product, the $200 'Portal'". Business Insider.
  6. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (November 8, 2018). "Facebook's Portal video chat devices launch today". The Verge.
  7. ^ a b Seifert, Dan (November 8, 2018). "Facebook Portal review: trust fail". The Verge.
  8. ^ Nguyen, Nicole (September 18, 2019). "Facebook Really, Really Wants To Open A Portal Inside Your House". BuzzFeed News.
  9. ^ Notopoulos, Katie (November 5, 2019). "It's A Shame You'll Never Buy The Facebook Portal TV". BuzzFeed News.
  10. ^ "Introducing Two New Portals, Including the First Portable Version".
  11. ^ a b c Lee, Nicole (September 21, 2021). "Facebook introduces portable Portal Go for $199". Engadget.
  12. ^ a b Rodriguez, Salvador (September 21, 2021). "Facebook announces new Portal video-calling devices, Portal for Business service". CNBC.
  13. ^ Constine, Josh (September 18, 2019). "Facebook launches Portal TV, a $149 video chat set-top box". TechCrunch.
  14. ^ a b Wagner, Kurt (October 8, 2018). "Facebook is audaciously launching a video gadget for your home, called Portal. Is that a good idea?". Vox.
  15. ^ Koebler, Jason; Rogers, Kaleigh (October 8, 2018). "Facebook Knows You Don't Want to Trust Its Portal Camera". Vice Media.
  16. ^ Wagner, Kurt (October 16, 2018). "It turns out that Facebook could in fact use data collected from its Portal in-home video device to target you with ads". Vox.
  17. ^ Chin, Monica (October 17, 2018). "Whoops! Facebook Portal Collects User Data After All". Tom's Guide.
  18. ^ Wong, Queenie (November 7, 2018). "Facebook Portal: Your privacy questions answered". CNET.
  19. ^ Wollerton, Megan (November 8, 2018). "Facebook's Portal Plus brings your friends and family closer for a price". CNET.
  20. ^ Segan, Sascha (November 28, 2018). "Facebook Portal". PC Magazine.
  21. ^ Prospero, Mike; Chin, Monica (January 18, 2019). "Facebook Portal Review: A Not-So-Smart Display". Tom's Guide.
  22. ^ Lee, Nicole (October 15, 2019). "Facebook Portal review (2019): A redesign doesn't ease privacy fears". Engadget.
  23. ^ So, Adrienne (October 16, 2019). "My Parents and Kids Love Facebook's Portal. I'm Not So Sure". Wired.
  24. ^ Segan, Sascha (November 8, 2019). "Facebook Portal TV". PC Magazine.
  25. ^ Wollerton, Megan (November 5, 2019). "No one should buy the Facebook Portal TV". CNET.
  26. ^ Holt, Kris (January 17, 2019). "Facebook employees caught leaving five-star Amazon reviews for Portal". Engadget.
  27. ^ Al-Heeti, Abrar (January 17, 2019). "Facebook employees appear to have left 5-star Amazon reviews for Portal". CNET.
  28. ^ Roose, Kevin [@kevinroose] (January 17, 2019). "Speaking of coordinated inauthentic behavior, what are the odds that all these 5-star Facebook Portal reviewers on Amazon just happen to have the same names as Facebook employees?" (Tweet). Archived from the original on January 27, 2019 – via Twitter.
  29. ^ Bhushan, Kul (January 18, 2019). "Facebook employees caught giving 5-star ratings to Portal smart speakers on Amazon". Hindustan Times.
  30. ^ Morse, Jack (January 17, 2019). "Facebook Portal reviews on Amazon appear to be padded with employee 5-star ratings". Mashable.
  31. ^ Gartenberg, Chaim (January 17, 2019). "Facebook employees busted leaving 5-star reviews for Portal on Amazon". The Verge.
  32. ^ "Amazon.com Help: Profile & Community Guidelines". Amazon.
  33. ^ Thalen, Mikael (January 18, 2019). "Facebook staffers busted leaving 5-star reviews for Portal speaker". The Daily Dot.
  34. ^ Boz [@boztank] (January 17, 2019). "neither coordinated nor directed from the company. From an internal post at the launch: 'We, unequivocally, DO NOT want Facebook employees to engage in leaving reviews for the products that we sell to Amazon.' We will ask them to take down" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  35. ^ Cuthbertson, Anthony (January 18, 2019). "FACEBOOK EMPLOYEES CAUGHT GIVING 5-STAR AMAZON REVIEWS FOR THE FACEBOOK PORTAL". The Independent.