Your Roomba Is also Gathering Data About the Layout of Your Home

Roomba 900

Roomba 900

As those corporations delve into the artificially intelligent voice assistant devices market, they are also exploring the advent of smart homes, a similar, but more extensive technology. The company declined to comment on how it classifies the information.

iRobot might not be a familiar name to you, but surely you have heard of the company's Roomba robot vacuums (and the parodies that go along with it).

The privacy-invading plan will help other smart home devices operate more efficiently using movement data collected by the circular cleaning gadget, CEO Colin Angle told Reuters. The competition is focused on making cleaning products, not a mapping robot'.

Roomba's highest-end models can show you maps of where they cleaned.

The 900-series Roomba vacuums use simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM, technology to map out rooms while they clean, storing information on the layouts of rooms and the location of furniture. Opening a smartphone with a stored fingerprint scan, locating a child through a tracking app, unlocking a front door via a smart lock that also knows your daily routine: These are just a few ways smart devices collect users daily activities and data in return for an enhanced experience.

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It sounds like it could be a privacy nightmare for Roomba owners, but the thing is a floorplan of your home doesn't really tell anyone who stays in there, what you do, what your passwords are, and what kind of conversations you are having. Bit by bit, companies nibble away at these ideas - no more anonymization here, a bit less control there - while simultaneously hinting these are things customers consciously agree to.

If you think it's creepy that Roomba's been sharing maps of your house with its maker, there's a way to cut the data sharing with iRobot, though it might disable a key feature of your robo-vac.

iRobot claims that their system will not sell data "without customer permission". No data is sold to third-parties.

iRobot does not specify in its privacy policy whether a map of a home would legally be considered personally identifiable information or anonymized user data. Neither approach has won any broad interest from the tech industry, and I don't expect they ever will.

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