Can we trust Facebook to control millions of microphones in our homes? (Spoiler alert: no)


CNBC broke the news that Facebook is working on a virtual assistant, apparently to power their hardware products like the Portal smart speaker, the Oculus VR platform and future hardware products.

An assistant appliance (also called a smart speaker or smart display) represents a unique object in our lives -- its an internet-connected microphone in your home directly controlled by the company that sold it to you, without any intervening, third-party scrutiny. So you have to trust that company.

Can Facebook be trusted?

Facebook this month was caught requesting email passwords from new users signing up for Facebook, then using those passwords to copy and transfer the email contacts associated with those email accounts without user permission.

The EFF said Facebook is behaving like a criminal hacking organization. “For all intents and purposes, this is a phishing attack,” the EFF said in its official response to the event.

But even the most generous interpretation is that Facebook recklessly ignored minimal standard practices for safeguarding data by requesting email passwords.

A common theme in Facebook scandals is the reckless handling of personal data. There are dozens of instances in the past years revealing Facebook's untrustworthiness -- whether incompetence or criminal malice.

The AI personal assistant user interface revolution is coming. And it’s going to put microphones everywhere.

And that’s why we must all reject Facebook’s participation in this revolution — especially after the repeated trespasses against user privacy that are at least incompetent and at worst malicious or even criminal.

Facebook simply can’t be trusted.

Read my column.