Facebook’s Portal Devices Can be Used to Target You With Ads

BY Evan Selleck

Published 16 Oct 2018

Facebook Portal

Facebook is a social network, but it’s also a means for the company behind the social network to serve up ads and marketing materials for businesses all across the globe. And its newest video devices don’t change that.

When Facebook announced the Portal and Portal+ video calling devices, it was reported at the time that the company wasn’t collecting data for the specific purpose of ad targeting. So even if you used Spotify on the device that wouldn’t be used to dish out Spotify-related ads on other Facebook-owned platforms — or across the internet in general as you browsed the web. But it turns out that’s not the case at all.

While Facebook said at the time the Portal devices wouldn’t be used to bolster its ad targeting for users, that’s apparently not the situation. As noted on Tuesday by Recode, Facebook can indeed use the information it gathers from the Portal devices to build up advertising efforts for individuals. So while the Portal devices themselves don’t, or won’t, have ads, that doesn’t mean that after you use one of the devices you won’t see related ads elsewhere on the internet, especially on Facebook’s services.

“Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices. We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads,” a spokesperson said in an email to Recode.”

So, where does the confusion come from? Apparently it boils down to the fact that because the Portal devices don’t show ads, that’s what the initial statement was about. Basically, the Portal devices don’t show ads so the Portal teams aren’t planning on using the information they gather from folks using the devices to distribute targeted advertising.

So Portal can use collected data to distribute targeted advertising, which Facebook could use to show on its other services, but that might not happen because, for now at least, Portal doesn’t show ads:

“I think [my colleague] was intending to say that we don’t intend to use it,” Camargo told Recode. “Potentially, it could be used.”

So it looks like while the Portal can indeed be used to develop targeted advertising efforts per individual, that won’t be the case for now.

Our Take

The change isn’t surprising in the slightest. This is Facebook we’re talking about after all. This is just another device the company can use to bolster its streams of information it gathers from its users, which it can then use to build advertising efforts. The fact that Portal doesn’t show ads (yet), and that’s the only reason Facebook won’t be using that data for those uses doesn’t necessarily leave me at peace.

Are you planning on putting a Facebook Portal device in your home?

[via Recode]