As Facebook continues to deal with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company has decided to postpone the unveiling of its new AI-powered smart speaker at the upcoming F8 developer conference in May.
It comes as little surprise to learn the company believes now isn’t the time to reveal an Amazon Echo/Google Home rival. Home speakers are undeniably popular, but there are still question marks over how much they respect user privacy, especially as they come with always-listening microphones.
Reports that Facebook was building its own hardware have been around since the middle of last year. One of the products, possibly called Portal, combines a smart speaker with a 15-inch touchscreen—similar to what Amazon offers in its Echo Show. Facebook reportedly intends to pitch the device as a way of helping friends and family remain in touch through video chats. The company is also said to be launching a cheaper, standalone speaker.
Both speakers are thought to come with a Facebook-created digital voice assistant in the style of Siri/Alexa and were expected to be revealed this May, with a launch date sometime during the fall. The social network will still release the devices this year, though Facebook wants to carry out a “deeper review” of how they handle user data before unveiling them.
Following the revelations that political-advertising company Cambridge Analytica used data harvested from 50 million Facebook users without their consent, a number of people, including WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, joined the #deletefacebook campaign.
Facebook encountered further problems after it was discovered the firm was keeping detailed call and text logs stretching back years. With the company in damage control mode, one can understand why it has delayed the unveiling of hardware designed to integrate itself tightly into users’ everyday lives.