Can Our Vacuums Be a Privacy Risk?

Can Our Vacuums Be a Privacy Risk?

Air Date: Tuesday August 8, 2017-

With today’s smart tech crammed into almost every household item it’s not surprising that privacy advocates are now sounding the alarm bells on a new smart robot vacuum.  Makers of these smart household helpers say that if we are not careful the data it collects about people’s houses can get transmitted to corporations like Amazon, Apple, or Google. Should that be something we should be worried about? 

So, how concerned should we be if we have a  smart appliance in our homes like a fridge, or in this case, a smart vacuum?

Well it really depends on how you feel about sharing your personal data with some of the larger tech companies? For instance,  if you look at some of the new technologies getting integrated into the vacuum cleaners on the market.

The company iRobot, makers of the Roomba robotic vacuum; which is really popular and has been whizzing across floors for years, has just  released an updated version and for many privacy advocates they are saying its future may lie more in collecting data than dirt.

How So?

Well, in terms of the smart vacuum by iRobot, that data is of the spatial variety, for instance the dimensions of a room as well as distances between sofas, tables, lamps and other home furnishings.

If the vacuum is able to collect and upload that data to say Google, there’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that other smart home devices can deliver once it has a rich map of the your home – provided you allowed all the data and details to be shared.

And it is these sort of details and data that third parties are interested in so that they might make a device that heats a room more efficient, or might allow someone to market missing items to future customers.

That would seem a little creepy?

Privacy advocates think so. So much so that they are speaking out about iRobot’s recent decision to enable their popular automated vacuum Roomba to share the dimensions of  your rooms as well as distances between sofas to Google, Apple, and Amazon.

Many privacy advocates are stating that companies ought to treat data about people’s homes as if it were personal data, and ensure that explicit consent is sought to gather and share this information.

The Roomba’s terms and conditions already carry a clause that states that owners allow data collected to be shared with “other parties. Since privacy advocates got upset,  iRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle clarified that “iRobot will never sell your data,” and emphasized that customers have control over their data. Which is true – but only to whatever point the terms and conditions allow.

What’s the bottom line?

The Roomba vacuum data case is a good reminder that the rules that govern many aspects of our lives, both online and – increasingly – off, are not, as  “explicit” as it should be so you might want to read over your Terms and Conditions before you plug in your smart home device.



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