Facebook's Portal Go and Portal+ devices launching in NZ in October

Meanwhile the company is facing questions from its Oversight Board.
Meanwhile the company is facing questions from its Oversight Board. Photo credit: Supplied

Facebook is launching two new Portal devices, the first major additions to its standalone video conferencing hardware in two years, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced.

The Portal Go and Portal+ will be available in Aotearoa from next month, joining Amazon's Echo range and tablets like Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Surface devices which offer more flexible video calling options than standard desktop PCs.

Last year the social media giant started supporting Zoom, Webex, BlueJeans and GoToMeeting on Portal as well as video calls on its own platform, for both business and personal use. That extends further in December with support for Microsoft Teams coming to the all touch-based Portal devices, including the two new products.

The battery-powered Portal Go is the first in the range designed to be picked up and moved from room to room and comes with a built-in handle. It has a 12MP ultrawide view smart camera and can be used as a portable speaker by connecting with Spotify and iHeartRadio.

The Portal+ is a bigger, 14-inch model, seemingly designed to attract professional users, with the company highlighting its use as a dedicated screen for work calls while freeing up your computer to take notes or multitask.

It has dual stereo speakers and the same camera as the Portal Go, with the bigger screen allowing 25 people to be shown at one time on a Zoom call.

Both devices can also be used as digital frames to display favourite Facebook and Instagram photographs and will integrate with WhatsApp in the coming months to allow messaging, even if your phone is dead.

Privacy, long a concern with Facebook, is also changing how the devices operate. The AI technology that powers the smart camera will run locally and not on Facebook's servers, the company says. The camera and microphone can also be easily disabled and a red light next to the lens will indicate when the camera and microphone are off.

A similar indicator on Facebook's smart glasses, Ray-Ban Stories, recently caused controversy as it can simply be taped over, allowing users to covertly record people.

An integrated camera cover on the Portal devices also allows users to physically block the camera lens but still receive calls and notifications.

The Portal Go will launch in New Zealand with an RRP of $299 while the Portal+ will be $549. Both begin shipping October 19.

Meanwhile, Facebook's independent Oversight Board has asked the social networking giant to clarify the system it uses to review content relating to some users.

Facebook's 'cross check' programme was designed to ensure actions taken against high-profile users are fair. Instead, The Wall Street Journal recently revealed it simply ended up shielding millions of high-profile users from enforcement policies.

The programme, also known as XCheck, included at least 5.8 million users, with an unknown number of users "whitelisted".

This rendered them "immune from enforcement actions" while others "are allowed to post rule-violating material pending Facebook employee reviews that often never come", the Journal reported.

Back when XCheck first became public in 2018, Facebook stated there were no special protections for any group and it removed content from Facebook when it violates standards.

A spokesperson confirmed the company will brief the board about the system over the coming days, Reuters reported.

The Oversight Board has previously asked Facebook to explain how the cross-check system works and share its criteria for adding pages and accounts to the program but hadn't been provided with the criteria.