Facebook puts a pin in its smart speaker
Facebook is reportedly delaying the unveiling of its smart home speaker, following the Cambridge Analytica revelations that have led to a seismic crisis for the social network.
According to Bloomberg, the move to push back any reveal of an Amazon Echo-esque device is due to the fact people are outraged about the company’s data handling practices. The speaker was rumoured to be shown off in May, and would have been part of Facebook’s plan to integrate itself more closely with people’s home lives.
That aim looks laughable given the current anger around the company’s handling of personal data. Pushing a listening device at a time when people are waking up to the fact Facebook knows so much about them wouldn’t have been the smartest of decisions. Recently it was revealed that the company has been collecting calls and logs of text messages dating back years. This came off the back of the even bigger revelation that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook user information for targeted political advertising.
Facebook reportedly found that users in focus-group testing were uncomfortable with having a Facebook-branded device in their living rooms. There have been suggestions that this device is a video chat speaker with an in-built touchscreen, a bit like Amazon’s Echo Show, which would represent a new stage in the social network’s hardware ambitions. While the speaker has been shelved for now, there are reportedly still plans to launch the device later this year, though that presumably depends on how well Facebook handles its current tranch of damage control.
It is thought that the smart speaker will aim to deliver the same digital assistant schtick that Amazon, Google and Apple have pushed with the Echo, Google Home and HomePod respectively. Facebook has yet to show it has an AI-assistant to compete with these devices. Given his current unpopularity, we’re assuming it won’t have the voice of Mark Zuckerberg.