❝ The Roomba’s most sinister-sounding feature—recording maps of your home that iRobot CEO Colin Angle swears he will totally never sell to advertisers—can now be used for more overtly hellish purposes thanks to Doomba, a tool that converts Roomba maps for use in the 1993 shooter Doom…
❝ “I soon realized that there was a clear opportunity to serve the Dark Lord by conceiving a plethora of unholy algorithms in service to one of the finest works ever created in his name,” Rich Whitehouse wrote in a blog post. “Simultaneously, I would be able to unleash a truly terrible pun to plague humankind. Now, the fruit of my labor is born. I bring forth DOOMBA, a half-goat, half-script creature, with native binary backing for the expensive parts, to be offered in place of my firstborn on this fine Christmas Eve.”
The following is from an open letter to iRobot CEO Colin Angle. His company makes the very popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. On Monday, ZDNet’s Jake Smith wrote about iRobot’s intention to sell mapping data from customers’ homes to other companies.
❝ Dear Colin,
One of the ways Webster defines “dear” is “highly valued” or “precious.” So, when I start a letter with “Dear Colin,”…I’m just using a commonly accepted way of starting a letter.
This is relevant to our discussion because you’ve recently talked about taking from your customers information that is dear to them, even though you’ve never met most of the people who enjoy the benefits of your products. When your customers buy your products, there are some common expectations.
❝ It looks like you may be thinking about or trying to violate those expectations. By extension, it’s looking like you might be violating the trust given to you by your customers. Even worse, you could be opening the door to security risks that are far worse than they would be worth, just so you can make a few extra bucks on the side.
In a recent Reuters interview, you talked about the value of mapping data, both for doing the job of cleaning a room, and for understanding the environment where internet-connected things need to interoperate. So far, I’m with you…
That data could be used to help maximize lighting, tune sound, optimize microphones, determine when people or pets are in a space, and help conserve energy. All that is good…
❝ But here’s the thing that has the whole internet a-flutter. Apparently, you’re trying to sell that mapping data. I understand that…but once you get into the mode of selling data, the potential for abuse rears its oh-so-ugly head.
You’re no longer mapping our homes to make sure you don’t tear out a power cord or fall down a flight of stairs. You’re moving into the realm of spying on your customers. In your case, though, it’s far worse than those stories of possible always-on webcams or TV sets…
See, none of those other devices can move around the house on their own power. If my TV is in the living room, I know it’s there. If I’m concerned about my privacy, I’m probably not going to parade my naked butt in front of it. But a Roomba can decide to wake itself up. It can wander around the house. It can measure, map, and with your onboard camera, even take pictures.
What could go wrong?
The CEO of iRobot has been further interviewed by ZDNet. He denies that the firm will sell customer data. Pls read it. Judge for yourself.
❝ Robot vacuums may have once seemed an eccentricity, but they now represent a non-trivial portion of the overall vacuum market – 20 percent worldwide, according to iRobot CEO and co-founder Colin Angle…And Roomba makes up 70 percent of that market, giving iRobot a commanding lead in the space.
❝ Exactly how many robots does that translate to? Over 14 million Roombas sold to date, Angle said, which is a steady business for a consumer product that starts at a price point that tends to be a bit higher than your average human-powered home cleaning hardware.
❝ iRobot’s lead in the market should be easily defensible, Angle says, because the company has a long lead in terms of working on the problem, and because it’s focused on consumer home cleaning products exclusively. iRobot’s become even more focused of late, since the company recently divested itself of its defense and security robotics division and is now focused entirely on the home consumer space.
How long will we continue with individual operating systems for each home electronic assistant – as artificial intelligence becomes more commanding. A deliberate choice, that word. Seems easier to have a centralized house intelligence to run home-based devices. Encrypted and secure from both private and government hackers, of course.