iRobot, the maker of Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners, won’t sell customer data to other companies, its CEO has said in a statement, clearing up a report from earlier this week that set off consumer privacy alarms.
“First things first, iRobot will never sell your data. Our mission is to help you keep a cleaner home and, in time, to help the smart home and the devices in it work better,” Colin Angle, iRobot’s CEO and founder, told ZDNet on Thursday.
This is a sharp change of course from comments Angle made in a Reuters report a few days ago. In that report, Angle seemed to suggest data gathered by Roombas as they maneuver around your home could be sold to the highest bidder in order to improve third-party smart home devices.
On follow-up with ZDNet, iRobot said it was misinterpreted that iRobot plans to sell customer data to other companies, specifically Amazon, Apple and Google.
“[Angle] never said that iRobot would look to sell customer maps or data to other companies,” an iRobot representative said. “iRobot has not had any conversations with other companies about data transactions, and iRobot will not sell customer data.”
The original report has been updated to note Angle said iRobot could one day strike a deal with these companies that allows iRobot to share maps of homes for free, and only if customers consent to the transfer.
Customer permission is key; iRobot won’t do any data sharing unless customers say it’s OK.
“Information that is shared needs to be controlled by the customer and not as a data asset of a corporation to exploit,” Angle said in his statement to ZDNet. “That is how data is handled by iRobot today. Customers have control over sharing it. I want to make very clear that this is how data will be handled in the future.”
As for whether your Roomba is making a map of your home, the short answer is, yes. iRobot’s most advanced 900 series, which includes the Roomba 980, use Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping, or SLAM, to gather map and navigation data as the vacuums go about their business.
This data stays hosted on the Roomba, iRobot told ZDNet, though it can be shared to the cloud if a customer opts to see a map of their abode on the iRobot HOME mobile app.
iRobot may not plan to sell maps of your home to other companies, but there’s still the possibility that data could end up in outside hands for free down the line. Any sharing will have to be signed off by customers, though hopefully if and when that time comes, iRobot is crystal clear in its messaging.