+ Friday August 23rd, 2019

According to a report from CNBC in the US, Facebook is coming up with a new way for us to dislike the service, working on a voice assistant. Facebook isn’t afraid of trying new things, but this one could be a bit of a stinker, especially because there’s already a growing distrust of Facebook and it’s privacy and security principles.

In a marketplace already crammed with voice assistants, Facebook’s work in this area is probably unwelcome at best. There are two incumbent AI assistants that work quite well – Google Assistant and Alexa – and a whole swathe of assistants that are either no good, or unknown (Bixby, Cortana, various options out of China, Oppo’s Breeno?). Do we really need another one from Facebook?

Well, they think so. Apparently Facebook has been working on the idea since early 2018, and is already in talks with smart speaker suppliers to sound out the option of building things with Facebook built in.

A scene from the offices of Life Invader, in the GTA 5 fictional universe. Or is it?

And that’s where this project sounds like a terrible idea. Facebook’s optics aren’t the best at the moment, and the whole concept of “Facebook built-in” doesn’t sound like it’s going to work well. Who knows, we might be wrong, but this isn’t off to a promising start.

What will Facebook do in the assistant space, anyway? Will it build an ecosystem ala Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, or will it be a more Facebook-centric service that can’t interact with other popular services that people expect? My biggest concern is what Facebook would do with the data it collects from such a service, and perhaps more worryingly, how long it’ll be before Facebook releases it inappropriately to the next Cambridge Analytica?

For those fully ensconced in the Facebook ecosystem, perhaps this will be of interest. For everyone else … perhaps less.

Chris Rowland   Managing Editor

Chris Rowland

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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