Friday, July 28, 2017

So who will get a map of the inside of your house?

And what will they do with the info?
The Roomba is generally regarded as a cute little robot friend that no one but dogs would consider to be a potential menace. But for the last couple of years, the robovacs have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers, turning the friendly robot into a creeping, creepy little spy. 
By now a lot of y'all have heard about this.  Let's break down the top issues.

iRobot (the Roomba's manufacturer) says that they won't willy-nilly sell your floorpan to just anyone - they claim that disclosure will only happen with your "informed consent".  Ignore for a moment the question of whether High Tech Marketing Departments and their Legal beagle running dogs are or are not all a bunch of rat bastards.  The iRobot privacy agreement itself says this:
[We may share your personal information with] other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares, reorganization, financing, change of control or acquisition of all or a portion of our business by another company or third party or in the event of bankruptcy or related or similar proceeding.
So if they go bankrupt, and the most valuable asset they have is their customer's floorplans, what do you think will happen?

Moving on.  One discussion that I've seen is what happens if you don't have a Roomba but you buy a house from someone who does.  Can you prevent the information from getting sold?  It seems like this would be like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.

There are interesting questions about who might want your house data.  Here are a few ideas:

Local governments who want to know if additions were made to a house without licensing.

Companies who want to know how old your kids are (a crib was replaced with a bed - the kid is no longer a baby).

Burglars looking for homes with valuable things to steal (the high end Roombas have cameras, and while we don't know what information they collect, we do know that it will be stored at iRobot and will pretty quickly become a hacker magnet).

There are probably lots of other people who would want this information, and you wouldn't want them to have it.  Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Postscript:  The Sorcerer's Apprentice thought it would be cool to automate a broom, too.


Divemedic said...

This information is already out there. Your local government has a copy of your house plans, and they are public record.

Differ said...

BP. Just finished a DO178 (Vance Hilderman) class and would relish your opinion on the potential security vulnerabilities, if any, of s/w conforming to such standards.

Borepatch said...

Divemedic, are the records up to date? Would your local.Gov like them to be? And the records don't include things like furniture, the brands that you buy (viewable with the built-in camera) and which rooms have toys on the floor.

Differ, I'm just not familiar with this. My gut feel is that it's good that there's a standard which likely will discourage the latest coding-trick-du-jour (Ruby! Python! C#!).

Divemedic said...

My point is this: The privacy ship has sailed. Everything about you is out there somewhere. Every time a story like this comes out, people act surprised and outraged, as if this was a new phenomenon.

Information about all of us is the most valuable commodity there is today. Everything from your shopping history and financial records to your medical history and the floorplan of your house is up for grabs.

Papa Bear said...

I've got one of the new Roombas and you can view the map on the app. Trust me, nobody is going to determine much of anything from it, I can barely make out the floorplan myself.

Richard said...

Leaving your wi-fi router on all the time is probably a bad idea for a number of reasons but even if you do couldn't you configure it in such a way to keep the data from being transmitted. Besides the Roomba, it would be interesting to see what else your router is communicating with.