Facebook is now delaying the release of its smart speaker, based on widespread fears of eavesdropping and unauthorized audio recording. Those fears appeared in a recent focus group conducted by the social network.
Facebook’s worsening privacy disaster is now affecting the company’s ability to launch new products. On Tuesday, word leaked that Facebook is delaying the release of its smart speaker, based on widespread distrust among potential buyers.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook has officially nixed plans to unveil its smart speaker at its F8 developer conference in May. The product itself was slated for release this fall, but Facebook has delayed that timetable indefinitely.
Facebook’s unreleased device is a digital assistant like the Echo, with video capabilities.
Bloomberg journalist Sarah Frier noted that Facebook encountered serious warnings in its focus group testing. “The social media company had already found in focus group testing that users were concerned about a Facebook-branded device in their living rooms, given how much intimate data the social network collects.”
The development follows the discovery of serious data breaches involving tens of millions of Facebook users. That has prompted millions to actively consider deleting their Facebook accounts, while a number of advertisers have already pulled their campaigns. Legislators on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed outrage, and Mark Zuckerberg will soon be interrogated in Congressional hearings.
Accordingly, this would be the absolutely worst time to release an internet-connected speaker that sits in your house and listens to you.
Even without a privacy scandal, Amazon has been forced to address concerns of eavesdropping related to its Echo. The company has repeatedly reassured users that it only captures audio inputs after an ‘Alexa’ prompt.
Of course, Amazon hasn’t been busted stealing data from tens of millions of users, then selling it to a clandestine marketing firm that exploited that data to sway an election. And given the mounting privacy crisis, Facebook’s smart speaker would probably suffer serious sales problems.
All great news for Amazon and Google, who won’t face a big competitor in the short term. Now, the question is whether this blows over for Facebook, or if its depleted trust issues permanently stunt its abilities to compete in this arena.