The past decade has been a story of handing over privacy in return for utility, and certainly in recent history consumers have been willing to have that utility be supported by ads in exchange for their personal loves, likes, and shares.
The Voice-First revolution is pushing that value exchange even further, now asking not just for your data, but your voice and with devices like Facebook’s entrant into the market, Facebook Portal — asking for your face via video chat as well.
So the question has to be — are consumers willing to let Facebook’s camera into their living room?
Facebook portal, currently only available in the US uses Amazon Alexa for it’s voice assistant, rather than Facebook’s own “M” assistant found in Facebook Messenger.
The Portal devices themselves carry many of the design tropes of the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub devices and the smaller of the Portal range also sell at a similar price point.
You could argue that Facebook should be better placed than Amazon’s own offering, to deliver on the utility of video calling, messaging and their newly announced gaming platform for Portal.
But they face the fundamental issue of being a Facebook product.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2015/16 Facebook’s reputation have been significantly damaged, and whilst the overspill of the privacy issues haven’t overspilled into the reputation of their non-blue-badge products like WhatsApp and Instagram, Portal seems to carry a lot of the Palo Alto data-leaky baggage.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been touring the fall/winter season of conferences in the UK — and in every room where I’ve asked: “would you let Facebook have a camera in your house?”.
The resounding response has been hell no.
Now as unscientific as this is, it seems a worryingly accurate prediction for how the device could do when / if it comes to European markets in 2019.
So who are you willing to let “see” into your home?
All of the major smart home manufacturers are banking on the fact that you trust Amazon and Google with a lot of your personal data as it is, and using that base you would be willing to let them into your home.
With Google’s Nest Product Line and Amazon’s acquisition of ring doorbells, it’s clear the major players are aggressively fighting to own the visual access to the home.
The consumer reality is that if we want a truly connected, autonomous and enabled future, we need to be willing to give yet more privacy over in return for true utility.
If we want packages to be dropped off when we want them, our fridges to know what groceries we need, and be able to check on our elderly relatives with ease — we need more sensors, cameras, microphones and devices in homes, not less.
2019 will be the year where this new privacy for utility exchange will be turly put to the test with new regulations coming into force, EU regulators putting pressure on the biggest companies in the world to be more transparent and true consumer adoption of voice-first devices.
But for now at least letting Facebook’s camera into your living room may be a step too far.