Could Your Roomba Soon Be Sucking Up Your 4th Amendment Rights Also?

 

If you own a high-end iRobot “Roomba” model, it may be doing more than just cleaning your floors and carpets…it may be vacuuming up part of your 4th Amendment privacy rights. Entering the world of smart technology and “IOT” (internet of things) makes you and your home vulnerable to other users and devices out there in cyberspace.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, hace.ouses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” which cannot be violated unless there is probable cause to do so, and upon such probable cause, the issued warrant must specifically describe the places to be searches and items/persons to be seized.

But what happens when the desire to use smart technology means sacrificing our privacy rights, and maybe even our 4th Amendment rights afforded by our Constitution?

  1. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Last week, Colin Angle, the CEO of iRobot, announced that within two or so years, iRobot could begin selling its map data to companies like Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company which was the result of a corporate restructuring deal back in 2015.

iRobot’s “Roomba” is a line of disc-shaped “smart vacuums” that are able to detect and clean dirt in a 360° direction by bumping into obstacles and its internal sensors “mapping” the surrounding area. Angle’s announcement would only apply to the high-end models of Roomba, beginning with the Roomba 980 model, which was the first WiFi-enabled model.

While Angle indicated that the company had not yet formed any plans to sell consumer data, his announcement creates a pile of potential legal implications for not just iRobot, but for consumers globally.

  1. WITH SMART TECHNOLOGY, COMES A VIOLATION OF PRIVACY

Convenience trumps privacy. Every time. But, the question becomes how much privacy the average consumer is willing to sacrifice for a more efficient life-style. Angle’s announcement brings some serious privacy concerns and poses the start to many questions by both data privacy attorneys and consumers:

  1. What does my Roomba Show?

iRobot’s success is nothing to question, as the concept of a “smart vacuum” gained popularity as a result of its ability to clean and essentially “remember” where to clean and how to cover an entire room. Indeed, the device’s ability to remember where it’s been and where to clean is dependent upon its mapping data it stores. But what does this “data” consist of? The later models of the Roomba offer the “Clean Maps” report, which allows users through the iRobot app identify and view cleaning coverage areas as well as concentrated areas where there is a higher presence of dirt. Pretty sweet. Or so it appears to seem.

  1. Who is Storing Your Homes Map Data?

Privacy enthusiasts would agree that consumers should know exactly what information and data they have, where it’s located, and how to keep it safe. The possibility of a consumer’s data of his or her home being in the possession of a party other than them is beyond alarming. However, Angle has indicated that “no data is sold to third parties.”

  1. Why Are Consumers Just Being Told This Now?

Technically, the idea that the entryways, hallways, and floors of a consumer’s home is being mapped and analyzed is no secret, at least per iRobot’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Bottom of Form

  • Some of our Robots are equipped with smart technology which allows the Robots to transmit data wirelessly to the Service.  For example, the Robot could collect and transmit information about the Robot’s function and use statistics, such as battery life and health, number of missions, the device identifier, and location mapping.
  • We use this information to collect and analyze statistics and usage data, diagnose and fix technology problems, enhance device performance, and improve user experience.
  • Our Robots do not transmit this information unless you register your device online and connect to WiFi, Bluetooth, or connect to the internet via another method

The company’s Privacy Policy specifically states that it may share consumer data… “with [their] consent, to third parties who [it] think[s] may offer [the consumer] products or services [they might] enjoy”…or.. “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 proceedings.” That’s a fairly large number of people knowing what the inside of a consumer’s home looks like, the size of their home, and potentially a consumer’s income level.

  1. SOLUTIONS?

When a consumer registers their device with iRobot or even downloads the app, they or forced to accept the Terms of Service/Privacy Policy, otherwise they aren’t able to download it to their device. It appears that consumers are forced into giving up this data. Incorrect.

iRobot provides users with the option of “opting-out” of the data sharing feature within the iRobot Home app by disconnecting their WiFi or turning off Bluetooth functionality.

Ironically, the truth is that we create our own pile of dirt. By purchasing these smart devices, albeit Roomba, Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other products, we implicitly allow these devices to monitor, track, and learn about us. Consumers are all about hands-free communication, especially when its efficient. Consumers expect their respective devices to live up to their marketing reputations and as such, don’t question how it’s able to do that. Society is buying into privacy intrusions. The question is how much privacy do we expect to give up? Are consumers waiving their constitutional right to certain protections within the home?

Smart technology…it’s smart for a reason. Convenience. It trumps privacy.

 

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