Compliance Management, Network Security, Privacy

Roomba vacuums may soon be used to air customer data, and sell it


Roomba robot vacuum cleaners may soon be collecting sensitive data on user's homes that may one day be sold to companies like Amazon, Google and Apple.

High-end versions of the robotic vacuum cleaner already collect information as they clean to help them identify the locations of walls and furniture and other special data to create a virtual map of a user's home to avoid crashing, but this information could potentially divulge more sensitive data as well.

Privacy experts argue that this information raises concerns since it could be used to extrapolate the size of a home and the amount of furniture in it to deduce the owner's income level or even detect if a baby is present, all of which could trigger advertisements consistent with such.

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Jamie Lee Williams expressed these concerns and said it may even be possible to identify the brands the owner uses.

“Especially combined with other data, this is going to be able to reveal a ton of information about what people's lifestyles are like, what people's daily patterns are like,” Williams told the New York Times.

Smart home technology such as lighting systems, thermostats and security cameras are still dumb when it comes to measuring their physical environments, Colin Angle, chief executive of Roomba maker iRobot Corp, told Reuters.

"There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," Angle said.

Angle told the publication his company, which has already Roombas compatible with Amazon's Alexa, could reach a deal to sell its maps to one or more of the Big Three tech giants in the next few years. The company would not sell user data without customer permission, Angle said expressing confidence that most would give their consent to access the smart home functions of the device.

iRobot Corp has yet to respond to SC Media's request for comment concerning what specific information could be shared, how long information would be kept, and what would happen to data if the home is sold, fully furnished, to someone who didn't consent to sharing their data.

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