Tech

Your Roomba is spying on you and that fridge sure looks suspicious

Your Roomba is spying on you and that fridge sure looks suspicious

iRobot is known for its line of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, but it seems the company has ambitions beyond simply automating your vacuuming schedule. Roombas are already compatible with Google Homes and Amazon Alexas, and data about your home could easily help those companies figure out what you don't already have so they can start selling it to you. In fact when viewing homes, more often than not you can get your hands on a floor plan relatively easily.

Guy Hoffman, a robotics professor at Cornell University, said regularly updated maps could allow air conditioners to schedule airflow by room, smart lights to adjust according to the position of windows and the time of day and sound systems to match the acoustics of a home. Moving toward selling data that its units are collecting no doubt represents an enticing revenue stream. "iRobot takes [the] privacy and security of its customers very seriously", Angle said in the statement given to TechCrunch. The company sells nearly every consumer good you can imagine, and its business is all about tailoring product suggestions to consumers' buying habits. For instance, the Amazon Echo, if placed within a room with not much furniture in it, could suggest purchases to fill up the space.

It's important to note that the kind of "rich map" that Angle describes isn't created by every single Roomba sold since 2002, when they hit the market.

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But you don't have complete control. iRobot may still retain anonymized data connected to your device.

How exactly the opt-in will look to the end user remains to be seen - hopefully it will be more transparent than fine print at the bottom of some lengthy terms of service, detailing how and to whom data is sold.

However, iRobot's CEO Colin Angle raised some eyebrows earlier this week in an interview that he gave with Reuters. But whether Angle's goal to share more data with Amazon occurs, or separately with Apple or Alphabet, is not clear. Simply put: their services are free to use, and your data is the payment they extract. People are buying gadgets that at the high end cost almost $1,000, expecting that they are taking ownership of a deluxe piece of hardware-not inviting a robotic spy into their living rooms.


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