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Facebook looks to get into voice assistant market

Facebook has confirmed that works to develop voice assistant technologies are currently in the pipeline. However, it is unsure how consumers will react to it, as the company is embroiled in yet another privacy lapse involving management of users’ email information. The company will also be pitting itself against the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.

The new innovation follows Facebook’s move into virtual reality headset, Oculus, debuted in 2017 and last year, Facebook also launched a video call solution with Alexa. Named Portal, it boasts a smart camera with movement-tracking and privacy features. A spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters, “We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products.”

According to CNBC‘s sources, the team building the AI assistant is led by Ira Snyder, director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant. Based on rumours that Facebook has been contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain, the report speculated that Facebook may be integrating the voice assistant into existing solutions such as Portal and Oculus.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Business Insider, Facebook admitted that it has “unintentionally uploaded” 1.5 million email contacts into its systems when new users created their accounts since May 2016. The spokesperson added, “These contacts were not shared with anyone and we’re deleting them. We’ve fixed the underlying issue and are notifying people whose contacts were imported. People can also review and manage the contacts they share with Facebook in their settings.”

This was discovered in some cases by Facebook when it looked into the steps people were going through to verify their accounts. Last month, Facebook stopped offering email password verification as an option for people verifying their account when signing up for Facebook for the first time.

Earlier this month, a cybersecurity firm also discovered that more than 540 million Facebook records were exposed. In April last year, Facebook also found potentially 65,009 users in Singapore at risk of having their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. The platform also confirmed that 1,096,666 accounts in Indonesia were put at risk as well.

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