Will Facebook ever become aware of just how bad it’s image is at the moment? The social media mega-corporation has made clear its intention of getting into hardware, with a dedicated chat tablet called Portal already unveiled. But, the release of Portal was delayed, due mostly to the enormous backlash it received from early reviewers. Most declared that the device was a neat little gimmick, but drew much more attention to the fact that it had a camera, and this wasn’t exactly what anyone wanted to see, following the earth shattering data theft controversy.
For those unaware, the Britain based company Cambridge Analytica was revealed to have stolen the user data of millions directly from Facebook, and to have funnelled that information into a marketing campaign for none other than President Trump himself. So, the idea of welcoming a Facebook camera into their household was not foremost on anyone’s mind.
Facebook naturally decided that the best course of action was to completely brush over the scandal and go right ahead and design a TV, and just like Portal, it would have a built in camera!
The television is called Project Ripley, and is designed to be an extension of Portal. Which is to say; it would be a television that has video chat features built into it, complete with the already-demonstrated face tracking technology of Portal. Once again, a pretty neat little idea, but for the overhanging concerns from the general public. This is akin to giving Facebook an invitation into your home, and then trusting them to not misuse the power.
Speculation is already rampant about the potential for the social media giant to abuse this power, even if not intentionally. Although, given how the trial with Cambridge Analytica has unfolded and the implications made, the notion “unintentional” should be taken here with a mountain of salt. Facebook already mines any and all user activity on Facebook, be you looking at photos or otherwise. A camera seems to just be begging for the corporation to extend the information it can sell off, “unintentionally.”
So, forget about just your online data being sold off, your favourite clothing brands, eating habits, what casino games you prefer to play, how much sleep you get, and just about everything else about you could likewise be up for grabs.
Privacy Questions Are Raised
Perhaps the worst part of the whole situation is that Facebook seems all but entirely incapable of managing its own image, or developers connected to branded projects. A statement made said that information gathered by the Portal tablet would not be used in adapting ad-generated advertisements on the Facebook social media platform. All good and well.
However, almost immediately after this statement was made, ReCode did a bit of scratching around on the tablet, and come to a rather stunning conclusion. Data gathered by a Portal device could certainly be used for nefarious means, and likewise the information could be sent to a database. Upon the project vice president of Portal being contacted, and questioned about the fact, Rafa Camargo responded that, yes, technically the possibility did exist. But he was unsure if data would be mined in this way.
At this point it can only be wondered if, once again, the social media giant is even aware of how bad its image currently is, or just how horrifying the Cambridge Analytica scandal was for the general public. That they seem to be intent on getting cameras into homes, surrounded by sketchy privacy policies, is nothing if not confusing.
Portal is set for release at the end of November, and the Ripley project is rumoured to be announced in the coming year. What public reaction will be remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Facebook will be watching.