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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder (gizmodo.com) 123

The maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, iRobot -- which we have talked about several times in the past -- has found itself embroiled in a privacy row after its chief executive suggested it may begin selling floor plans of customers' homes, derived from the movement data of their autonomous servants. From a report: While it may seem like the information that a Roomba could gather is minimal, there's a lot to be gleaned from the maps it's constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. [...] If a company like Amazon, for example, wanted to improve its Echo smart speaker, the Roomba's mapping info could certainly help out. Spatial mapping could improve audio performance by taking advantage of the room's acoustics. Do you have a large room that's practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.
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Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder

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  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @02:28PM (#54876603) Homepage Journal
    I actually have the advanced version of the Neato Botvac..that makes maps of my house after it runs..which I thought was nice to visually ensure it hit everything.

    I hope THEY don't start selling this info....!!!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, now it's going to find all the dead people I leave lying around. Maybe it'll suggest cleaning supplies for that!

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        Eh, nobody's going to pay for maps of dead bodies. I'm more interested in buying maps of houses with very expensive TVs. Preferably if the house doesn't have a gun safe.

    • Maybe I'll let one loose in a public men's room. That'll be funny.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      When I look at the maps, it is hard for me to match what it does to the layout of the home. I tend to be a visual person, so I usually can map these kind of things to reality.

      Also, I tend to move the robot to different parts of the house, so there would have to be some significant processing before anyone could use the data to generate an accurate map.

      That said, there is a evidently a camera on the iRobot, so depending on the data is collected, there may be more than just a map. When I bought it i did

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Is the thing using an "app" or "cloud" then you can be sure that it's being sold to the highest bidder.

      • Slashdot headline 101, when someone says they might sell information, tack on 'to the highest bidder' in the headline, even if they never said that. It creates a sense of greed and shifts focus away from possible other sensible reasons.
    • I actually have the advanced version of the Neato Botvac..that makes maps of my house after it runs..which I thought was nice to visually ensure it hit everything.

      I hope THEY don't start selling this info....!!!

      They might find out my sofa clearance just high enough for the damn thing to get stuck. I'll give that away free.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    why is this thing connected to the internet in the first place?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @02:33PM (#54876631)
    Modern mapp mappers use mapps to mapp mapps, or something. Mapps?
  • To the internet for anything but firmware update?
    • Well, I do, but I do so using my own hardware and software. The Roomba doesn't get to talk to the internet except through me.

  • Sadly, it isn't fake.

    Sigh.

    This is disgusting.

    • There is great danger it seems to me to arise from the constant habit which prevails where anything is opposed or objected to, of referring without rhyme or reason to the Constitution as a means of preventing its accomplishment, thus creating the general impression that the Constitution is but a barrier to progress instead of being the broad highway through which alone true progress may be enjoyed.

      Apparently this also works for privacy.

      Most privacy complaints I've seen are of two flavors: something peo

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      I don't remember a targeted ad ever working. I do remember that change in ads creeping me out and then associating that creepiness with the products advertised. Are competitors using targeted ads to creep people out and put them off buying competing products by advertising them in a negative manner. Make not mistake targeted advertising is mostly targeted at the people buying advertising space. Logically enough the less ads you see the more offensive they become, you cease to be accustomed to the intrusion

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @02:35PM (#54876649) Homepage

    Appliances shouldn't report on their owners.

    Having said that, it could be fun having the Roomba send data that indicates:
    - Our bathrooms are the size of Airplane hangers
    - The master bedroom is actually a dungeon
    - Our pets consist of only magical creatures
    - My workroom contains nuclear materials

    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @03:00PM (#54876859)

      I'd get a truckload of old boxes and make a giant cardboard box maze along with some spiral and regular ramps. Maybe even a Jubilex, Asmodeus map or a Wizard of Yendor tower.

      • I'd get a truckload of old boxes and make a giant cardboard box maze along with some spiral and regular ramps. Maybe even a Jubilex, Asmodeus map or a Wizard of Yendor tower.

        Bonus points for the geek that gets their mapping program to output MC Escher's staircase painting.
        Double bonus points for the geek that introduces a fractal image that crashes their servers similar to the image Picard wanted to introduce into the Borg Collective via Hugh...

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @03:14PM (#54876951)

      Our local Costco has started carrying Roombas recently, and the price is decent. The last two times I was there, I toyed with getting one.

      Now I am not going to buy one under any circumstances. I don't care if the CEO backtracks later - he's just proven why these sorts of devices should not be owned by anyone with any sort of intelligence.

      • You're likely not aware of Costco's business, but basically these models aren't going to show up for a long time. They help companies like iRobot clean out last year's models from the warehouse. You won't find the latest and greatest there for an item like this.

      • he's just proven why these sorts of devices should not be owned by anyone with any sort of intelligence.

        So let me get this straight: Instead of junk ads from the highest bidder, getting this device may cause Amazon to actually advertise stuff that makes sense for me, AND it cleans my house? Frankly I'd be happy with just the former.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Get one without a cellular modem. If it was wifi or a PC connection, don't connect it. If it doesn't work without that, return it.

        Returns are actually a great way to punish companies that try to hide bullshit in the EULA and don't clearly advertise that their products need spying enabled to work. You can usually get them to pay return postage in the UK, dunno about other places.

    • [I]t could be fun having the Roomba send data that indicates: [...]
      - My workroom contains nuclear materials

      It's only fun and games until SWAT breaks down your door in the middle of the night, shoots your dog, and leaves your children traumatized because of the CYA mentality that prevents people from leaving things that are obviously jokes alone, just in case they end up being credible threats.

      • Actually, that's when the fun and games start.

        Imagine the lawsuit/settlement that you can have with a company that wrongly accuses you of working with nuclear materials based on the word of a vacuum cleaner.

        They will basically give you anything you want to keep the press from finding out.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @02:42AM (#54880267)

      That should be relatively doable, but I do question how your Roomba will react

      *Clicks button to clean bathroom*
      Roomba: "Did you install the 12 additional charging points I asked for? I'm not going in there"

      Fine! *Clicks button to clean master bedroom*
      Roomba: "Screw the first law of robotics, I'm invoking the third!"

      Grr! *Clicks button to clean workroom*
      Roomba: "My friend died when they asked him to clean Fukushima." *Drives to the corner of the room* *sobbing sounds*.

  • And my response to this idea is: Nope.

  • by CHK6 ( 583097 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @02:38PM (#54876679)
    Tinfoil hat time, but the same data could provide the means of a well-crafted home invasion. In the event of a full breach home invasion, one of the advantages that the home owner has is knowing the layout of their home. If those that mean to do harm, have the home layout they can pre-plan out everything in advance.
  • Why should I spend money on a Roomba so it can tell me to spend more money?
    I'm fully capable of buying furniture on my own, thank you very much.

    They mention Amazon as a buyer, but let's get real, spam ads would eventually show up.

    Lastly, I'd just disable my Roomba's internet capabilities if I somehow got too lazy to vacuum.

  • Seriously.... who cares that they know your floor plan? Besides, you listed all these advantages that can help you as a consumer, by
    having your other devices know your floor plan!

    My only concern is if you bought the device, then the maps should be your property, and you should be free to submit this data to all your smarthome product vendors without adding to the costs of their products.

    It seems a bit unfair that you spent $$$ on this robot that collects your data AND the company wants to tax your data

    • by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @03:21PM (#54877011) Journal

      Seriously.... who cares that they know your floor plan?

      It's not what they're selling, it's that they're selling it at all. Consumers seem to have no control over their personal data anymore. They're at the mercy of whichever corporation decides that they'd like to squeeze you for a little more money. The answer shouldn't be "well, stop using that technology!". What we should be doing is demanding stronger consumer protection laws to prevent it from happening in the first place.

      • Would surely be nice if there was a mechanism that actually worked to keep this stuff off the internet. Seems the "free market" isn't doing the job. I assume that these companies will have free reign to do this until the vast majority of people say something.
        • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

          Seems the "free market" isn't doing the job

          Yeah, well... humans. As often as not, they don't act rationally or in their own self-interest.

          That sort of behavior destroys the simplistic economic models you read about in the newspaper or see on TV.

          The simplistic models justify being an asshole, so they stick around.

  • I have been shopping around for one of these - now it's just not going to happen. Talk about exploiting your customers :-(
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @05:35PM (#54877967) Homepage Journal

    "Do you have a large room that's practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective."

    Yeah, those will be super-effective, because all those people with giant, empty rooms probably aren't aware that a thing called "furniture" exists.

    Fuckheads.

  • by Chewbacon ( 797801 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @07:51PM (#54878793)

    I think we have a deal.

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