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Circuit Breaker

Facebook may launch its smart speakers internationally first

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The company is said to be looking to avoid the increased scrutiny over data privacy in the US following the Cambridge Analytica breach

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook may be planning to launch its rumored smart speakers internationally before bringing them to the US due to the increased concerns over user privacy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a report from CNBC.

Facebook has been rumored to be working on a smart speaker since last August, when Bloomberg first reported on the project. The company is said to have two smart devices planned — a larger, $499 Echo Show-esque device called “Portal” with a laptop-sized 15.6-inch touchscreen, and a smaller one that would just offer a speaker (similar to the regular Amazon Echo.) The new speakers were supposedly planned to be unveiled at F8 this year, but the company’s ongoing PR problems and increased scrutiny in the public eye over privacy concerns meant that it probably wasn’t a good time to try to sell Facebook users on the idea of having an always-listening Facebook speaker in their homes.

According to CNBC’s report, an international rollout would help avoid some of that scrutiny in the US while still letting Facebook start to play catch up to companies like Google and Amazon, who have years of a head start in the smart assistant market.

Also included in the report are some additional details on the two smart speakers, confirming earlier speculation that the speakers will use Facebook’s M assistant, which was briefly featured in the Messenger app before getting shut down earlier this year, although it will presumably function differently than its text-based incarnation there.