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Facebook TV Box with Camera Sounds Like a Privacy Nightmare

We know that Facebook is reportedly planning a TV gadget with a built-in camera. But will people put such a device in their living room after the news of the company collecting data on users through its $199 Portal devices?

Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

According to Cheddar, the hardware — codenamed Project Ripley — will compete with Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and Chromecast, providing access to Facebook Watch and Instagram TV channels. The device will also reportedly let you access your news stream, trending video content, and whatever other channels the company devices to build in. 

Facebook’s TV may also let you use a camera to turn the set into a Messenger-based video conference system to allow your contacts into your living room. It all sounds great — until you figure out that you will probably be letting in some shadowy uninvited guests, too.

Just yesterday we learned that Portal — Facebook’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Home Hub — recorded user data that can be used to target you with ads on both Facebook and Instagram.

MORE: Whoops! Facebook Portal Collects User Data After All

Apparently, the device is built on Messenger technology which, by default, monitors you at all times to be able to allow Facebook’s advertisers to deal you anything they see fit. Facebook has since claimed that while they have the data, they don’t “intend to use it.”

Similar claims have been repeatedly proved wrong or misleading in the past. If anything, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal still fresh in our minds, Facebook has shown again and again that it can’t be trusted with your private data.

The social network is still recovering from a recent data breach that affected more than 30 million users.

"Facebook is battling data breaches, political entanglements, and general privacy concerns over its business model, all of which complicate trying to sell video chat solutions," said Avi Greengart, research director of consumer tech at GlobalData.

"However, the bigger challenge is simply that consumers are not looking for location-based video calling when they already have individual smartphones for all forms of communication," Greengart continued.

Knowing Facebook's history, the company's living room device could track your data and share it with third parties for targeted advertising. But as Greengart points out, the bigger question is whether consumers would even buy it in the first place.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.