New Roomba Vacuum Collects Not Just Dirt, But Private Household Data

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Technology designed to make our lives easier may come with a serious tradeoff: your privacy.

A new robotic vacuum is collecting more than just dust. It could be collecting your household’s private dirt.

roomba New Roomba Vacuum Collects Not Just Dirt, But Private Household Data


At least, that was what happened with the Loebrich family’s Roomba. They bought their robotic vacuum cleaner 4 years ago. It’s come in very handy for this busy family of five.

“It’s nice to come home and have the floor actually clean,” says Steve Loebrich.

Their Roomba uses sensors to change direction and not even the dog seems to mind this robotic creature of sorts.

“My wife says this is the best Christmas present she has ever gotten to this day.”

But now, the company iRobot has updated its Roomba with the Roomba 980.

It comes with software that captures images of a room, and compares these images to gradually build up a map of the robot’s surroundings. Essentially it creates a blueprint of the inside of your home.

The Loebrich’s early model Roomba isn’t Internet connected and doesn’t have that capacity.

“It’s like everything else we do on our smartphones – they are collecting analytics about who are you and what you do,” says Steve.

Eventually, iRobot has plans to sell the data collected after mapping your house. Buyers include Amazon, Apple and Google.

But the prospect of selling users’ information raises potential privacy concerns.

“The Roomba of tomorrow might be able to scan what furniture you own and figure out the income of your home, or your TV watching habits based on what it picks up,” says Jamie Lee Williams of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The company acknowledges the potential privacy concerns saying it takes privacy and security of its customers very serious and says it will always ask your permission to store map data.

“Privacy is a huge huge deal,” says Steve. “I work for a tech company and privacy is a huge deal – we take it seriously and I know other companies in Silicon Valley take it seriously.”

The old version runs on batteries and does not store information. Despite privacy concerns, the Loebrich family is still considering upgrading to a Roomba 980.


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