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Facebook said to postpone smart speaker reveal as data scandal continues

Facebook said to postpone smart speaker reveal as data scandal continues

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Illustration by William Joel / The Verge

As public outrage over Facebook's data collection policies continues to swirl, the company has decided to delay the announcement of its upcoming smart speakers, according to a Bloomberg report. The devices were said to have been set for an unveiling at Facebook's F8 developer conference in May, but as Bloomberg puts it, “now may be the wrong time” to ask people to trust the company with even more personal information by placing always-listening microphones in their homes.

Bloomberg reported details of the products last August. They're said to include a video-focused device codenamed Aloha (and possibly called Portal) with a laptop-sized touchscreen, along with a standalone speaker that would sell for a lower price. Both reportedly use a voice assistant developed by Facebook, akin to Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. The products themselves were always intended for a release in the fall, according to the report, but Facebook now wants to conduct a “deeper review” of how they collect data before revealing them to the public.

Even before the current crisis, these devices may have been a tough sell — a lot of people already believe the debunked conspiracy theory that Facebook secretly uses smartphone microphones to record conversations and better target advertising. Facebook came out as one of the least trusted US tech companies in a study conducted by The Verge and Reticle Research last fall, though a little over half of the respondents expressed at least some degree of interest in the company's upcoming smart speaker.