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mark zuckerberg in sunglasses
Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg.

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Images


While developing its forthcoming video chat device for the home,
Facebook has been haunted by its own reputation as a harvester of
personal information.

The company is currently building an Amazon Echo competitor with
a screen
that’s internally referred to as Aloha
, according to people
familiar with the matter. The plan is to release the device by
May 2018, but the date could change.

During the initial development of Aloha, Facebook employees
conducted focus groups to understand how the device could be
marketed. They received overwhelming concern that Facebook would
use the device to spy on users, people familiar with the matter
said.

The Aloha’s ability to recognize people through its camera also
caused privacy concerns. Facebook rented a house to test the
device in various rooms and people who were asked to test Aloha
said they felt uncomfortable having the device recognize them in
private spaces, like bedrooms.

To assuage concerns about privacy, Facebook has considered
creative ways to market Aloha, including pitching it as a device
for letting the elderly easily communicate with their families.
The device could also be shipped without the “Facebook” name as a
way to distance itself from the larger company brand.

A Facebook account will be needed to set up Aloha, which means
the social network will have access to user interactions with the
device. Facebook sees selling consumer hardware as a way for it
to more closely integrate with the lives of its 2 billion users
and inform its ad business, according to people familiar with the
company’s thinking.

The privacy concerns expressed during Aloha’s development
represent a privacy stigma Facebook will need to overcome as it

pushes further into selling consumer hardware
. The company
ran into similar concerns back in 2013 when it introduced
Facebook Home, an Android phone powered by Facebook apps and made
by HTC. The phone flopped.

The consumer hardware division inside Facebook responsible for
Aloha, called Building 8, is also working on a smart speaker
without a screen, wearables,
and more futuristic brain-scanning technology.

Facebook declined to comment on Aloha and any unreleased
hardware.


Do you know more about Building 8 and Facebook’s
hardware plans? Contact the author securely and discreetly by
email or Confide at aheath@businessinsider.com.

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