Is Roomba Vacuuming Up Data on Your Home?
September 01, 2017
In this episode of TechTalk, we discuss iRobot’s Roomba automated vacuum collecting more than just dirt. There was a report that the robot vacuum would collect customer household data and offer it to technology companies to enhance internet of things devices. Dave tells us how and what type of information is being collected, potential data privacy and security issues, and iRobot’s response to consumer concerns.
DP: So, Dave, this sounds story rather Orwellian. First, tell us a little bit about Roomba.
DK:Sure. I'm sure you're probably familiar with it. It’s that circular robot vacuum you’ve probably seen on TV or YouTube. It’s part of the iRobot Corporation, which was founded in 1990. And the iRobot corporation manufactures robots for consumers, businesses and the military. iRobot had 2016 revenues of 660 million dollars. Since 2002, it has sold approximately 10 million Roombas.
DP:Yeah, they're pretty ubiquitous. Now, about collecting data on the layout of your home?
DK:Sure,so there were reports out there, that the Roomba would collect spacial relationship data — through the use of cameras and sensors — what that means is the layout of a person’s home, for example, placement of lights, how far the sofa is from the coffee table and so on.
DP: And do what with the data?
DK:Well they could then sell that data to tech companies like Google, Amazon and Apple
DP:And to what end?
DK:The thought is that this information could help smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo, better function with lighting systems, thermostats and other Internet of Things devices in the home, including the Roomba itself.
DP: Well this sounds like it could be fraught with privacy and data security issues?
DK: That's right. So, could a Roomba video someone dancing in their living room in their underwear and then leak that out to the public? Or could someone case a house by hacking a Roomba and know when that person is home or out of the home? What if a tech company’s database of home layouts gets compromised? So, clearly it’s a sensitive issue with consumers based on the blowback in the media.
DP:And, how has iRobot responded?
DK:Its CEO, Colin Angle, came out and said they have not had discussions with the tech companies on this, and it has no intention to sell customer data. But they did leave the door open to providing the data not-for-profit, but free to third parties in order to enhance Roomba customers’ IoT experience. But, Angle did stress any data sharing would be based on customer consent.
DP: Yeah, that's an important point, the customer consent. Now, how does something like this – the growing and exploding use of the Internet of Things and data security – impact what accountants and business advisors like yourself do?
DK:Sure, so it goes hand-in-hand with cybersecurity. Seems like not a day goes by without hearing about some new threat or risk. Accountants and business advisors continue to be on the front lines with companies, to not only respond and address those risks, but to foresee and mitigate them.
DP:Yeah, that's the key definitely, being proactive. Well, interesting subject. Thanks, Dave, for your insights.
DK: Thanks for having me Dave.
DP:And thank you for listening to TechTalk as part of the EisnerAmper podcast series.Visit eisneramper.com for more information on this and a host of other topics. And join us for our next EisnerAmper podcast when we get down to business.