Roomba j7: should we be wary of the camera of this robot vacuum cleaner signed iRobot?

She probably would have preferred that this image remain private. A woman was recently exposed on social media as she relieved herself on her toilet, reports MIT Technology Review. The image in question, taken at foot height, was not taken by another person in the household, but by a robot vacuum cleaner: the iRobot Roomba j7. Other shots were also released in the process.

Cameras to better navigate

High-end robot vacuum cleaners are increasingly equipped with cameras that allow them not only to avoid obstacles, but also to identify them in order to optimize their cleaning strategy even better. On some models, such as the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra, it is also possible to access the camera remotely to check what is happening in the house, but of course it goes without saying that no one outside the house should to be able to access the images, without authorization from the user at least.

In the case of images from the Roomba j7, iRobot indicates that it has at least obtained authorization to collect images. Indeed, the manufacturer of robot vacuum cleaners wanted to react after their broadcast, and spoke through the voice of Colin Angle, its CEO, on LinkedIn. First of all, he specifies that these images date from 2020 and, above all, that they come from a development Roomba j7.

Also in this message, we learn that development robots differ from those sold commercially because they embed specific components and software in order to collect data intended to enrich and improve their functionalities. Users are obviously informed, especially since they are logically employees or collaborators of the firm since these models are not sold: one can therefore imagine that they are even very well informed of the particularities of these models.

Authorization to collect, but not to disseminate

On the other hand, none of these users has probably signed up for the data thus collected to be disseminated on the Internet, but iRobot declines all responsibility for the dissemination of the images. They were to be used to train the artificial intelligence behind Roomba j7’s obstacle recognition, and remain private. Unfortunately, the firm outsourced the image processing and one of the companies selected did not respect its contract. iRobot says it has since ended this collaboration.

According to MIT Technology Review, the service provider’s employees responsible for the leak were also fired, but the story above all reminds us that we must always be wary of data collection programs. iRobot also indicates to offer one with the commercial version of the Roomba j7, but it is unlikely that it will meet with much success after this story.

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