Facebook reportedly building a device to stream Watch shows on your TV

Joann Johnston
October 19, 2018

The company sent a statement to Recode clarifying that, while it won't show ads on Portal, it could use collected data to target ads across Facebook's platforms.

But now Facebook has backtracked on some of those claims. Facebook this year has taken steps to improve its data privacy disclosures after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that Facebook exposed the personal data of about 87 million people to a political advertising firm working for the Trump campaign.

A Facebook spokesperson explained that Portal's voice calls are built on Messenger's infrastructure, and as such it collects the same information - such as call length and call frequency - as other Messenger-enabled devices. A new gadget is reportedly in the pipeline, eschewing the smart display form-factor of the Portal and Portal+ in favor of turning your TV into a video chat device. The set-top box would let you stream Watch shows to your television, though it's not clear if it would support content from other platforms. Despite the fact that the company had said no data collected will be used for ad targeting, the Portal is fully capable of being a data-collection monster, and that data can absolutely be used for ad targeting.

Of course, Facebook will have to ensure that a broader ecosystem is created around its Portal and Ripley devices, before it can hope for a broader adaption. "Facebook's own Watch video service is included with Portal, and the company has said that it intends to add more streaming services over time".

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That's not to say that the data will be used to target you with ads, but given Facebook's business model, it's hard to imagine that it won't be.

Facebook was already facing significant obstacles with its entry into the highly competitive in-home smart device market, and this news is likely to do little to ensure consumers and marketers that personal data is being safeguarded.

Facebook has so far declined comment about the Ripley project, which conceivably could put Facebook into more direct competition with established players like Roku and Amazon for a slice of your TV-related attention.

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