How to Manage Privacy on a Roomba

Question

What should I do to keep my Roomba from sharing any information?

Answer

This question was answered on July 27, 2017.

A recent New York Times article (https://goo.gl/Dtk69g) reported that iRobot, maker of the popular Roomba line of automated vacuum cleaners, was considering the sharing of user floorplan data to third parties such as Amazon, Apple and Google.

This speculation arose from a Reuters interview about the future of the smart home with iRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle (https://goo.gl/kZo35v) that appears to have been misconstrued.

Which Roomba Models Send Data?
iRobot has been offering robotic vacuum cleaners since 2002, so unless you have a relatively new model that has a built-in Wi-Fi connection, there’s no way for it to share any information with others.

The primary models being discussed in the NYT article are the 960 and 980 models which have iRobot’s latest mapping technology.

Even if you do have a model with built-in Wi-Fi, such as the 690 or 890, it doesn’t have the ability to create a floorplan of your home like the 900 series.

What Data Is Being Sent?
All Roomba models that can talk to the iRobot Home app have the ability to show users data on how the device performed.

Usage data such as how long it cleaned, how far did it went, if it encountered any error codes and if it functioned correctly gets sent to their Cloud server so it can be processed and shown on the mobile app.

900 series devices also have a low-resolution black and white camera that helps it better navigate your home and create maps, but the camera has no connection to the Internet and images captured by it are not sent to the Cloud according to iRobot’s Privacy and Data Sharing policy (https://goo.gl/669gBx).

Their privacy policy goes on to say “No data is sold to third-parties. No data will be shared with third-parties without the informed consent of our customers. iRobot's privacy policy allows customers to share data with third parties for the customer's benefit, if they provide consent. For example, customers can currently choose to share limited data to enable voice control of the robot using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Customers would have to knowingly consent to sharing this data with Amazon or Google, and the data shared would be limited to only the data required to enable the voice control service.”

What You Can Do
If you’re concerned about data collected by your Roomba, there are simple steps that can be taken to manage your privacy.

If you don’t care about using their app, you can reset the device which will clear out the Wi-Fi connection along with any stored data. If you never setup a Wi-Fi connection on your Roomba, nothing was ever shared.

If you do want to use the iRobot Home app, but don’t want cleaning reports processed by their cloud server, you can turn it off by going to the Settings menu and toggling the ‘Clean Map Report’ option.

If you want data that’s been shared in the past removed from iRobot’s Cloud servers, you can contact their customer service department (https://goo.gl/znQmKb) to make the removal request.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on July 27, 2017