Update: 7/31/2017 Roomba’s CEO says this was a case of miscommunication and the company does *NOT* plan to sell your private home data:
“First things first, iRobot will never sell your data. Our mission is to help you keep a cleaner home and, in time, to help the smart home and the devices in it work better.”
So, um … Nevermind. Read the full rebuttal here: http://www.zdnet.com/article/exclusive-roomba-ceo-responds-to-spying-story/
I love my Roomba robot vacuum. Like a mini Rosie from the Jetsons, it glides through my house every few days sucking up dirt and dust, using it’s high-tech spatial mapping-magic to dodge furniture, pets, and those expensive heels that I kicked off the second I came in the front door (and can’t be bothered to put away). It’s a great way to painlessly check one more to-do off my chore list.
But the news today that the device’s makers plan to sell our floor plans, and who-knows-what-other-data to the highest bidder turning my friendly bot into a creeping, creepy little spy? Well that’s downright crazy.
As Reuters first reported, one of Roomba’s plays for the future involves using its fancy little cleaner bots like trojan horses. As it whizzes through your house sucking up dirt, it will also be collecting data, map your home’s layout to share with companies like Amazon, Google, or Apple.
“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,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters.
While it may seem like the information that a Roomba can dig up isn’t a very big deal, big companies can glean a lot from the maps it’s constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas need the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. A company like Amazon or Google could use that info to market furniture, cleaning supplies, other smart home devices, and a variety of other things to you. And what if that intel gets hacked? Oye vey.
Roomba says it will ensure that your data is anonymous, and that people can opt out of that data collection altogether, but that’s not enough for some critics of the plan, including some of Roomba’s biggest competitors.
“This very sensitive for people, their families, and their homes,” says Christopher Caen of rival robotics vacuum company, Ecovacs. “This move could be unethical, but regardless it’s just plain wrong. We’re not just selling appliances. We are selling interactive bots that are loose in your home, and if we don’t approach this carefully, it has the risk to become very invasive. At what point does it stop? At one point do we as companies draw the line and admit that this information belongs to our consumers and not a corporate asset to be leveraged solely for their benefit?”