Facebook ‘Ripley’ device would put a camera on your TV, report claims

Would you let Facebook put a camera on top of your TV? ‘Ripley’ project revealed as firms admits its cameras DO collect data about users to target ads

  • Facebook is reportedly building a camera-equipped device for the television
  • It would let users video chat and beam content onto their TV like an Apple TV
  • Firm is also prepping an AR projector and a device that types out your thoughts 
  • The move comes after Facebook released its Portal video chat device last week
  • Facebook on Tuesday confirmed to Recode that Portal data can be used for ads 
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Facebook has only just announced Portal, its first camera-equipped device for the home. 

But it appears the social media giant already has its sights set on the $200 video chat device’s successor – an effort that’s currently being kept under wraps as part of a project codenamed ‘Ripley,’ according to Cheddar.  

That reportedly encompasses a camera-equipped device that connects to the television for video chats and for streaming content. 

The move comes as a new report confirms that Facebook could use data collected from Portal to serve up targeted ads – heightening privacy concerns around the device.

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Facebook only just announced Portal, its first device for the home, but it already has its sights set on the $200 video chat device’s successor, as part of a secretive project called ‘Ripley’


Facebook announced two video chat devices, the Portal and Portal+. 

Portal and Portal+ are equipped with Amazon’s Alexa, so they respond to voice commands.

Facebook Messenger powers the devices’ video calling features. 

Here’s what they can do: 

  • Make and receive video calls with Messenger users and people who don’t have Messenger. 
  • Order groceries using Alexa.
  • Play music on Spotify or Pandora using Alexa. 
  • Scroll through your favorite Facebook photos. 
  • See who’s online on Facebook Messenger. 
  • Receive updates on Facebook friends’ birthdays.
  • View videos on Facebook Watch and other services. 

Facebook launched Portal last week, offering a $200 version and the larger, $349 Portal+, aimed for use in the kitchen and the office.

By expanding its product lineup for use in the living room, Facebook is trying to go after the entertainment center – an area that many believe is still up for grabs, despite Amazon and Google’s dominance in other parts of the home.

With Project Ripley, Facebook would likely go head-to-head with Apple, which offers Apple TV, a streaming device and entertainment hub for the TV. 

According to Cheddar, Facebook’s new device would be a cross between a Microsoft Kinect motion-sensor camera and the Apple TV or Roku streaming stick.

It’s expected to use the same operating system as Portal and pack many of the same features, such as an AI-infused wide-angle camera that can follow users around the frame and zoom in on specific users. 

Facebook Messenger would support the set-top device’s chat capabilities. 

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Additionally, it would probably support content from Facebook Watch, the firm’s YouTube-like video platform, as well as Alexa voice control and video from other outside developers. 

The firm hopes to release it in Spring 2019, but Facebook could change the date at any time. 

Facebook’s Project Ripley device could come as soon as Spring 2019. However, the launch date could be pushed back as it was forced to do with Portal after privacy scandals erupted

Facebook was forced to do that with Portal as Cambridge Analytica erupted in March, revealing that 87 million users’ personal data had been harvested and shared with the Trump-affiliated research firm.

The firm had hoped to release Portal last Spring, but the launch date coincided too close to when its privacy scandals unfolded.

Now, it seems the firm’s privacy shortcomings are catching up with it again. 

A new report from Recode found that data collected from Facebook’s Portal devices can be used for targeted advertising. 

That means users won’t be shown ads on the Portal devices, but the data sent from the device could generate ads on other Facebook properties, such as your News Feed. 

The firm clarified in a statement to Recode, saying: ‘Portal voice calling is built on the Messenger infrastructure, so when you make a video call on Portal, we collect the same types of information (i.e. usage data such as length of calls, frequency of calls) that we collect on other Messenger-enabled devices.

‘We may use this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms. 

Facebook’s new device would be a cross between a Microsoft Kinect motion-sensor camera and the Apple TV or Roku streaming stick. Pictured is the Portal+ device launched last week

‘Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads,’ a Facebook spokesperson added. 

This is likely to further annoy users who were on the fence about Facebook’s Portal devices in the begin with due to the company’s record with handling user data. 

But ‘Project Ripley’ isn’t the only device that’s in the works. 

Cheddar also noted that Facebook has its sights on making its previously announced brain-computer interface a reality. 

At Facebook’s F8 developer conference last year, it teased a system that would use  optical sensors to allow people to type at speeds of 100 words per minute simply by thinking. 

This project, codenamed internally as ‘Edgefield,’ is being worked on by about a dozen Facebook employees, Cheddar said. 

Another device, part of an internal project called ‘Sequoia,’ would involve an augmented reality projector. 

It would allow users to project AR graphics onto the real world and interact with them in novel ways. 

Like Project Edgefield, Sequoia is also in the very early stages, but it could involve scenarios such as projecting virtual board games on a physical table or projecting an image of yourself onto physical objects for video chats, Cheddar noted.  


Facebook in late September disclosed that it had been hit by its worst ever data breach, affecting 50 million users – including those of Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Attackers exploited the site’s ‘View As’ feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other users.  

The unknown attackers took advantage of a feature in the code called ‘Access Tokens,’ to take over people’s accounts, potentially giving hackers access to private messages, photos and posts – although Facebook said there was no evidence that had been done.

The hackers also tried to harvest people’s private information, including name, sex and hometown, from Facebook’s systems. 

Facebook said it doesn’t yet know if information from the affected accounts has been misused or accessed, and is working with the FBI to conduct further investigations.

However, Mark Zuckerberg assured users that passwords and credit card information was not accessed.

Facebook says it has found no evidence ‘so far’ that hackers broke into third-party apps after a data breach exposed 50 million users (stock image)  

As a result of the breach, the firm logged roughly 90 million people out of their accounts earlier today as a security measure.  

Facebook made headlines earlier this year after the data of 87 million users was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy. 

The disclosure has prompted government inquiries into the company’s privacy practices across the world, and fueled a ‘#deleteFacebook’ movement among consumers. 

Communications firm Cambridge Analytica had offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.

‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.

The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix (pictured), after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump

This meant the company was able to mine the information of 87 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.

This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.

It has also suffered several previous issues.

2013, Facebook disclosed a software flaw that exposed 6 million users’ phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorized viewers for a year, while a technical glitch in 2008 revealed confidential birth-dates on 80 million Facebook users’ profiles.  

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