Security Sidebar: Roomba Does More Than Vacuum Your Floors

Many of us are fascinated by cool technology, and if the technology emboldens our lazy lifestyles, then all the better. The iRobot family of products fall right into that wheelhouse. No wonder we are huge fans of the Roomba vacuuming robot and the Braava jet mopping robot that automatically keep our floors clean. Do I want to pick up a vacuum cleaner or a broom and actually move my arms? Uh, no.

Well, not surprisingly, this convenience comes at a price. To be sure, these automated robot cleaning machines will hit you in the pocket book with their steep costs, but the technology they utilize to do a good cleaning job also has the capability to do much more than just clean a floor. The tradeoff is this: either pay more money for a good quality machine that will have the power and features to clean your floor properly or pay less money for a machine that does a sub-standard job. Many people choose the former. The more sophisticated technology gives the robot the ability to map out floor plan of your house, learn where all the furniture is located, analyze carpet wear for high-traffic places, etc. This is cool stuff because it allows the robot to clean your entire floor in the most efficient and productive way possible.

Something else is happening, though. As it cleans all your floors, the robot is learning all about your house. The information it gathers can be used to mine data about what all the rooms in your house are used for, including who might be using those rooms (kid’s room will have a different furniture footprint than adults, etc). This information could be sold to other companies for things like targeted furniture ads, lighting control solutions, heating and air conditioning recommendations, etc. We spend lots of money on defensive security systems to maintain our privacy but then we purchase a mobile sensor that can gobble up tons of information about us.

To be fair, iRobot never said that they plan to sell any of this data. While they do collect all the floor plan data in your house, they have not had any discussions with major tech companies regarding the sale of customer data.

While iRobot seems to be doing the right thing for their customers, not all companies follow the same lead. It’s fair to say that many companies are looking to gather as much information on people as possible, so think about that when you buy your next cool gadget!

Published Aug 21, 2017
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