Mark Zuckerberg said he doesn't want 'a camera in everyone's living room,' but seemed to forget that Facebook sells a camera that goes in living rooms

mark zuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain.Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

  • Mark Zuckerberg recently spoke with Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain as part of his New Year's resolution to host more open dialogues about the impact of tech on society.
  • During the conversation, Zuckerberg said: "We definitely don't want a society where there's a camera in everyone's living room."
  • In turn, Zittrain pointed out that Facebook actually sells a camera-equipped device for the living room - Facebook Portal, its smart speaker with video calling.
  • Reactions to Facebook's $200 Portal have been skeptical, with many voicing their unease at using a gadget from a company with a history of mishandling data.

It's always important to mind your metaphors - especially when you're a CEO of Mark Zuckerberg's stature.

In an interview with Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain that spanned almost two hours, Zuckerberg was asked to discuss Facebook's efforts to bring more privacy to online messaging. The Facebook CEO invoked a metaphor in which he compared messaging platforms to people's living rooms.

"We definitely don't want a society where there's a camera in everyone's living room watching the content of those conversations," Zuckerberg said during the interview, which made good on his New Year's resolution to hold more open dialogues about the intersection of tech and society.

There's one problem, though - Facebook literally sells a camera that goes into people's living rooms.. In October, Facebook launched Portal, a video-calling device that's also equipped with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant. Portal is Facebook's first consumer hardware gadget, and starts out at $199.

facebook portalRob Price/Business Insider

The Portal announcement came at a time when Facebook was fresh off numerous privacy and data security scandals that proved detrimental to consumer trust of the company. People were quick to voice skepticism, and balked at the idea of letting into their home a Facebook-created device with a built-in microphone and camera.

Read more: The curious timing of Facebook's first hardware product, the $200 'Portal'

When Zittrain pushed him on the existence of Portal, Zuckerberg responded, laughing: "That is, I guess…yeah. Although, that would be encrypted."

To that point, Zuckerberg also discussed Facebook's use of end-to-end encryption, which gives private communications an added level of protection from outside parties like law enforcement. WhatsApp is Facebook's only platform to fully offer end-to-end encryption, but a potential reconfiguration of Facebook's family of apps could potentially bring end-to-end encryption to Messenger and Instagram as well.

Facebook, for its part, has said that video calls through a Portal device are encrypted, and not seen or stored by Facebook itself.

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