Roombas will Spy on You

The company that sells the Roomba autonomous vacuum wants to sell the data about your home that it collects.

Some questions:

What happens if a Roomba user consents to the data collection and later sells his or her home -- especially furnished -- and now the buyers of the data have a map of a home that belongs to someone who didn't consent, Mr. Gidari asked. How long is the data kept? If the house burns down, can the insurance company obtain the data and use it to identify possible causes? Can the police use it after a robbery?

EDITED TO ADD (6/29): Roomba is backtracking -- for now.

Posted on July 26, 2017 at 6:06 AM • 78 Comments

Comments

mserlgkjJuly 26, 2017 6:25 AM

Isn't the device's price enough ? I wonder whether there is a point where customers just say no and stop buying these things.

matteoJuly 26, 2017 6:44 AM

i'm quite worried about this kind of things. and more in general worried about "the (mandatory) internet of things"
i mean some things can be more useful if connected but noone sell you the server so you are locked with their cloud.
not only! they make it mandatory, example: smart thermostat, if you aren't connected it became useless, it stop work for no reason.

on pc and smartphone i have a firewall, "smart" tv is offline, but how can you stop that kind of things if they make it mandatory?

IggyJuly 26, 2017 7:43 AM

Yes, the price of the device is enough. No, the vendor is not satisfied with being rich, s/he wants to be super-rich, a la Gates and Bezos. I believe in capitalism. Just not unfettered, step on anyone, anytime, anywhere, throw your weight around now that you're a mega-hog cash hoarder capitalism. That kills people just as much as unfettered socialism. Our Congress Critters are *supposed* to lobby on our behalf against such abuses of cunning advantage.

But nooooooo...

scot alexanderJuly 26, 2017 7:48 AM

What data? Floor plans are generally on file with the county assessor, and are public record. I suppose they could tell how often you vacuum, and how much dirt is collected, and how much furniture you have, and how cluttered your floor is (though "has cluttered floors" and "having a robotic vacuum" appear to be incompatible sets, for multiple reasons). Now, if the vacuum has a microphone, then the amount and value of data goes up exponentially, as does the evilness of adding data collection to a device that is not directly used to enhance the consumer experience.

phred14July 26, 2017 8:01 AM

There is the old internet saying, "If you're not paying for it, YOU are the product." Sadly, simply paying for something doesn't make you not be the product.

IggyJuly 26, 2017 8:26 AM

phred14 • July 26, 2017 8:01 AM said:

"There is the old internet saying, "If you're not paying for it, YOU are the product." Sadly, simply paying for something doesn't make you not be the product."

We are the livestock. Orwell was Cassandra.

wsindaJuly 26, 2017 8:27 AM

I've got a mate (who prefers to remain anonymous) who would be very interested to know in which houses there isn't anybody home at the moment.

pazeojihJuly 26, 2017 8:31 AM

@wsinda If it helps, I'm not home right now. Hope your friend appreciates the information.

Carl "Bear" BussjaegerJuly 26, 2017 8:38 AM

scot alexander, the new Roombas have cameras and laser sensors (lidar). They aren't just mapping the floor plan, they're seeing and mapping your furniture and potentially even when people use particular rooms. Aside from other concerns mentioned, imagine someone hacks that WiFi/Bluetooth-enabled camera that wanders throught your house. Imagine the police do that... without a warrant.

1984 was a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual.

ThunderbirdJuly 26, 2017 8:47 AM

The reason that this kind of thing is troubling even though the information is technically available in various locations already is that it *isn't* available technically already. It's available if you hire 20,000 clerks to dig it out and assemble it. This little plan makes it available for free by "stealing it" from your clients using their resources.

It's similar to the difference between a computer vulnerability and the fact that most houses are poorly secured. One guy in his mom's basement can't break into half the houses in the country at once.

I'm not sure what to call the fallacy in play, but just because there's already another way something can be done doesn't mean a new cheaper way to do it is of no concern.

Note that I'm only addressing the "floor plans" bit, not the previously-unavailable information on customer habit patterns and building occupancy.

TatütataJuly 26, 2017 9:09 AM

I'm quite fortunate not to own one of these things, anyway I have no clue how one could ever find its way through my clutter. It seems to me that the people who *could* use them are those who need them the *least*.

This telescreen-on-casters development was foreboded in at least one iRobot patent application WO2016100221:

[0022] In some embodiments, the supervised machine learning system is implemented on a remote server and the method further includes transmitting the at least a portion of the new image annotated with the ground truth data from the mobile robot to the remote server and receiving an updated classifier from the remote server at the mobile robot.

The application doesn't state whether their classifiers include face recognition, OCR and wireless environment sniffing. Attention all Roombas, here is an APB for Tatütata...

NinjaJuly 26, 2017 9:22 AM

You just don't connect the IoST (Internet of Stupid Things) device and voilá, problem solved. The problem as pointed above will be when companies start making connections mandatory.

I was very excited about new connectivity and smart appliances. Not so anymore. I'd rather have my stuff very dumb, please.

DanielJuly 26, 2017 9:53 AM

@scot alexander

"Floor plans are generally on file with the county assessor, and are public record."

I am curious as to what country your county assessors live in. Floor plans are not on file with in America, or at least not in my state (I'd hate to speak for all of America on this point).

@Thunderbird

"It's available if you hire 20,000 clerks to dig it out and assemble it. This little plan makes it available for free by "stealing it" from your clients using their resources."

Your argument lost all its persuasive force a long time ago. Your argument was made when sexual offender registries were first discussed and it was made again when mugshot websites became popular. The cultural trend is towards making that which was formally hidden (intentionally or not) public. Fundamentally, if the data is intended to be public there is no good reason to make it difficult for the public to find.

phred14July 26, 2017 10:28 AM

@Thunderbird
"It's similar to the difference between a computer vulnerability and the fact that most houses are poorly secured. One guy in his mom's basement can't break into half the houses in the country at once."

There's a business model waiting to be tried out on the dark web by that guy in his mom's basement.

Imaging going to the site on TOR, and searching for "homes near" giving it some address, not yours of course. It would come back with a list of addresses and a set of ratings, based on neighborhood affluence, publicly known info about owner, maybe Roomba data that can ascertain security information.

Then you can perhaps bid, perhaps "buy it now" for the "rights" to break into that house, as well as all of the accumulated intelligence about it, including floor plans, owners' habits, locations of prime valuables, etc.

Guy in mom's basement gets your fee, you get a much more efficiently run, more lucrative heist, with the side benefit of being less likely to get caught.

Unless of course the guy in mom's basement is really in the FBI, working with your local police department.

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2017 11:16 AM

@ phred14,

Unless of course the guy in mom's basement is really in the FBI, working with your local police department.

There is another service the guy in the basement could off which is "clean up" prior to CSI's collecting evidence.

I will admit that in a way the idea is not new. There is an episode of NCIS where a little robot cleaning device "cleans up" the shell casings, or as some put it "Police the Brass".

As it happens men generaly do not make good burglars, they tend to grab what they see and take little care to hide their presence, including often not wearing gloves or eating or drinking, thus leaving thei DNA all over the place, nice and fresh for CSI collection.

Some women burglers however go about things differently. They make quite covert entry and take care to not just wear gloves, but also hide their identity just in case of hidden CCTV. They also take care to not take anything obvious and not to leave things out of place.

This way the occupiers may not know they have been burgled for some time or at all. By which time trace evidence has been obliterated by normal household activities. It also makes off-loading or fencing the items easier as they have not been reported missing thus there is no stolen goods warning about them... A cleaning robot could easily be made to follow in a humans footsteps thus destroying evidence such as shoe impressions etc.

GeorgeJuly 26, 2017 11:21 AM

I don't see this as a big issue, since the Wi-Fi signals have been used for years to map (and monitor) houses on the inside. I agree the privacy issue needs to be addressed, but as long as we broadcast Wi-Fi throughout our houses, maps can be obtained surreptitiously and without a middleman.

markJuly 26, 2017 11:39 AM

IANAL... but if your house gets robbed, and the cops find the floor plan, purchased from Roomba, in the thief's possession, doesn't that make the execs and CEOs of Roomba, who sold it, accessories to a crime?

TatütataJuly 26, 2017 11:41 AM

including often not wearing gloves or eating or drinking, thus leaving thei DNA all over the place, nice and fresh for CSI collection.

How about polluting the crime scene beyond recognition, i.e., spray all over the place a mixture of ground meat, dog doo doo picked up in the street, cut hair residue from a barber shop, etc.?

Ever been tried or thought of?

albertJuly 26, 2017 12:06 PM

LOL,

At least this discussion isn't, as yet, mired in minutia. Roomba, like other IoTs, is 'on' even though it's sitting quietly in its charging dock.

Look, if a device:

1. Has sensors,
2. Has an Internet connection,

Then it can be monetized or abused.

In my book, monetization -is- abuse, as is data collection by any gov't agency.

Note to Roomba users: You may want to stop having sex on the floor. If you use the same location every time, Roomba may avoid that area, noting that it is something soft, and human-sized.

. .. . .. --- ....

ThunderbirdJuly 26, 2017 12:09 PM

Your argument lost all its persuasive force a long time ago. Your argument was made when sexual offender registries were first discussed and it was made again when mugshot websites became popular. The cultural trend is towards making that which was formally hidden (intentionally or not) public. Fundamentally, if the data is intended to be public there is no good reason to make it difficult for the public to find.

You are apparently discussing the (unmade) proposal to make house floor plans publicly available on the internet, not the current news of a company selling plans of their customers' houses. Perhaps I failed to make my point. I was trying to say that the argument "if something can be done somehow already, doing it another way is of no concern" is specious, not make any statement about what information should be available freely.

PhJuly 26, 2017 12:31 PM

Their privacy policy has a red flag the size of a small ocean:

"Although we do our best to honor the privacy preferences of our users, we are unable to respond to Do Not Track signals set by your browser at this time."

This means they are "unable" to add a few lines to their apache/whatever config.

Translated into non PR speech this means that they don't give a feces about what their users want.

aMacUserJuly 26, 2017 1:32 PM

Forget Roombas, get a Neato robotic vacuum ... they were the first to use SLAM when everyone else was using a "randomized wandering" approach and they do a meaningfully better job, having better designed suction, etc. Oh ... and they don't connect to the Internet.

Seriously, any "smart" device that enters my home (DVD player, TV, etc.) immediately gets assigned a specific IP address and that address is blocked by our pfSense router configuration. Just say "no, hell no" to iOT stuff.

tyrJuly 26, 2017 2:43 PM


I wonder if I can get a free upgrade to
my ancient ROOMBA which lacks all the
fancy IoT tech. I'll have to remember
to give it a kick for allowing its
kids to violate security.

JDMJuly 26, 2017 2:51 PM

Sadly, simply paying for something doesn't make you not be the product."

A big selling point of cable TV when it started was that it had no commercials. That didn't last long.

JeremyJuly 26, 2017 3:03 PM

@mark:

No, selling stuff to a criminal does NOT generally make you an accessory.

If you beat someone's head in with a hammer, the hardware store that sold you the hammer is not an accessory.

If you write a letter to someone in order to blackmail them, the guys who sold you the pen, paper, envelope, and stamp are in the clear.

You don't normally have a duty to police others or actively prevent their crimes.

Now, if someone provided you with some tools with the intention of helping you commit a crime, then they're probably culpable. The difference is the "mens rea" (guilty mind) of the person providing the stuff.

http://lawcomic.net/guide/?p=173

But if you're just selling stuff that might-or-might-not be used for a crime, that's generally fine.

DanielJuly 26, 2017 3:22 PM

@thunderbird

"I was trying to say that the argument "if something can be done somehow already, doing it another way is of no concern" is specious,"


You are correct: the logic is specious. So the hell what? No one care about logic. That was my point.

CHERIJuly 26, 2017 5:43 PM

A big selling point of cable TV when it started was that it had no commercials. That didn't last long.

I see comments like this often, and don't understand where they're coming from. Cable television began as Community Antenna TeleVision (CATV) and was, conceptually, little more than a big antenna and a splitter. It didn't give you anything you couldn't get, in theory, for free—if you found a site not blocked by mountains etc. and set up an antenna. If the stations being captured and rebroadcast had commercials, the clients would get them too.

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2017 6:58 PM

@ YouBetYourLife,

Meanwhile the military continues to develop and deploy their own version of IoTs that surveil entire populations from above and rain down terror wherever suspicion arises.

Lisa Ling (the whistleblower) is right that the way many drones are used is without doubt an act of terrorism[1]. It is also an extremely cowardly one as well, and worse it is in the main compleatly unnecessary for military or intelligence purposes[2].

Thus it is an act of quite deliberate terrorism against people who have no way to defend themselves from it. Thus morally it is as indefensible as what went on in Abu Ghraib[3].

Whilst those who do it in their cowardly way think there is no "comeback", there almost always is. Unfortunatly it is usually not they the MSM or the MIC that have to pay the price of their actions, but other innocent civilians or those at the bottom of the food chain.

But you need to see forward to where this is going to go, traditional terrorism, does not have to be one state terrorising the citizens of another state. No it applies equally as well to a state terrorising it's own citizens. Thus you have to ask where this is going, not just in the immediate future but the near future. We already know that the US Government is giving the civilian guard labour as much millitary equipment as it can via grants and other cover tactics. You have to ask when the LEOs are going to get not just the drones but the hellfire missiles as well... And as we know if you give boys new toys they will play with them sooner rather than later.

[1] Terrorism has had a changing definition over time and quite deliberatly so for political reasons. Originaly it was carried out by a state against civilians and it's purpose was the tyranical act of subjugation by violence and feer. In other words what you would expect of a tyrant, dictator or despot, through their guard labour be it the civilian law enforcment or military.

[2] Repeatadly killing civilians in large numbers because of "poor intelligence" is not exactly sensible or intelligent. Thus you have to assume either they are criminaly incompetent or the excuse of "poor intelligence" is a cover up. It is clear from what is known that the use of the drones is not covert but very much overt. Such deliberate behaviour is not of any intelligence value, because potential intelligence targets are warned, thus stay out of sight and do not use any surveillable method of communications. Leading to the conclusion that such overt behaviour is not for intelligence purposes, thus terrorism in the traditional sense is the next most likely conclusion.

[3] Modern examples from both sides would be what has been seen in Syria with helicoptors and barrel bombs which has drawn international condemnation. However the MSM fail to make clear the other side that by replacing the helicopter with a reaper drone, and the barrel with a hellfire missile it is not in reality any different. However in the MSM eyes some how it is magically different, because it's high tech with vast proffit to be made from tax dollars etc.

OldFishJuly 26, 2017 8:03 PM

@Matteo
I ripped the iot thermostat out of the house precisely because it wanted to phone home.

There is decent gear out there if you look for it.

Try Control by Web.

YearOfGladJuly 26, 2017 8:39 PM

@mserlgkj

I have a good friend who is ~25 years old. When I talked with him about the silliness of IoT things like Nest, his response:

"You have NO IDEA how lazy people are."

So, no, people will not stop buying these things because many people are spoiled and lazy.

Clive RobinsonJuly 26, 2017 9:19 PM

@ YearOfGlad, mserlgkj,

"You have NO IDEA how lazy people are."

He was not quite right, they are mostly "intentionaly lazy" and will show seriously risky behaviour just for a "quick fix".

But it gets worse, even when they know they are getting surveilled in intimate detail, they keep going for that "quick gratification" of the gimic. They think not about their longterm fate because "It's never going to happen" to them. Even when it has happened to somebody close to them, they are different or special thus immune.

They are the sort of people that will whilst getting every gadget they can run up hugh credit card bills and other debt. Because "they can handle it".

To say it is an addiction at least as bad as that to any drug is down playing it. Drug addiction carries a great deal of shame and self loathing. Going broke and loosing everything apparently does not for a great number of people.

They are the "Beads, baubles and gehaw today, bankruptcy, penury and destitution tommorow boom and busters". Going through cycle after cycle of boom and bust on easy credit, untill the credit stops and they develop another addiction through trying to deal with that.

It is just one of many self sacrificial behavious that we see. They however see it as "The Great American Way" or similar trope to excuse their excess.

neillJuly 26, 2017 11:19 PM

one could easily setup a second WiFi at home for all things IoT, which is totally firewalled (or even completely offline)

you could use remote control while at home, but those devices would NOT be able to send any data outside the home (or only certain ones you'd like eg security cams)

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained SpookJuly 26, 2017 11:29 PM

@ neill,

second WiFi at home for all things IoT

We thought of that. The second WiFi is an IoT device, too! A customized (read subverted) device. Any questions?

WaelJuly 26, 2017 11:36 PM

I got one a couple of years ago (I had six cats at the time, @Snarki, child of Loki) and found it to be pretty useless. I'm guessing the one I have isn't internet-impaired. I'm safe.

neillJuly 27, 2017 12:35 AM

@Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained Spook

it doesnt really matter what the device chatter will be, if there is NO physical connection to the internet ... unless you assume that all wifi routers have a secret 'talk to each other and route data' mode builtin

my point is as always that with some network trickery one can control the data (non-)flow quite effectively

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained SpookJuly 27, 2017 12:51 AM

@ neill,

unless you assume that all wifi routers have a secret 'talk to each other and route data' mode builtin

Is that such a far-fetched assumption? We need to make sure that's not the case.

my point is as always that with some network trickery one can control the data (non-)flow quite effectively

True, with a condition: network devices must be trusted to function as advertised. In other words, genetically speaking: the primitive building blocks of your security solution must be trust-worthy. Otherwise you'll need to dig deep in this blog for discussions on how to operate when the hardware isn't trustworthy.

Clive RobinsonJuly 27, 2017 4:23 AM

@ neil, Bong_SPMBS,

unless you assume that all wifi routers have a secret 'talk to each other and route data' mode builtin

It depends on,

1, The router.
2, The networks it has access to.

In the UK a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs)have done some very strange things with their routers.

Amongst the moronic such as having a "help desk configuration port" with a default password on the Internet side of the routers they insist you use. They have some even stranger ideas which accounts for why they insist you use their router with the configuration back door.

One strange idea is to have the router in your house also act as a "Public WiFi Hot Spot" for their mobile customers and even some smart meters. That is they take the bandwidth that you are paying for and share it with whoever of their customers can access the router in your home behind your back...

Yup so you might be paying for 20MbS but they share it with their customers not you. This way they get to provision their global mobile network for free off of the paying residential customers.

So yes I would be cautious of just what your IoT can get upto if your neighbour has service through such an ISP.... You might think it's issolated but you may need to think again...

Ergo SumJuly 27, 2017 4:43 AM

@all...

Would it make you feel better, if Roomba plans to roll out telemetry for performance improvement and quietly sell the collected telemetry data for anyone willing to pay for it?

You know, like how all applications, operating systems, IoT/WiFi enabled devices and even cars with SIM cards work. Most, if not all of them have cameras nowadays. Like computers, refrigerators, TVs, cars, etc. These cameras already monitor us to improve device performance in tandem with other collected data. And this telemetry data quietly makes its way to data brokers, or LEOs, without you knowing about the data sharing, a.k.a, selling. Yes, this data is anonymous and it is just coincidence, that you are receiving targeted and relevant ads via different means, such as snail-mail, email, websites, etc.

At least Roomba had been up front about selling this data. Thank you, but I'll keep my canister vacuum...

Ergo SumJuly 27, 2017 5:11 AM

@Clive...

In the UK a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs)have done some very strange things with their routers.

I wonder if the UK copied how it's done in the US, it's the other way around, or both of them came up with this horrible idea. Maybe this was suggested by the LEOs for monitoring customers on the go and not just at home.

In the US, all major ISPs have "Public WiFi Hot Spot" that isn't really public. Accessing it requires UID/PWD and generally the bandwidth is limited via QoS.

This only works, if the customer opts for the ISP provided, free broadband WiFi router. I almost fell for this, when my Juniper SMB router with no support had became flaky. Picked up one of these free broadband router at the nearby service center that was the same brand and model # that was the candidate for replacement. It had become quite clear that I have no control of the router at all, it is only the tech support, that can make configuration changes. Two hours later, the free router was back at the service center.

I've purchased a router that supports open-source software and never looked back...

WaelJuly 27, 2017 5:32 AM

@Ergo Sum,

Would it make you feel better...

No!

The more interesting question is: Would it make you feel better [...] if you are a share holder, or would you dump the stocks?

Who?July 27, 2017 6:24 AM

@ Clive Robinson

One strange idea is to have the router in your house also act as a "Public WiFi Hot Spot" for their mobile customers and even some smart meters. That is they take the bandwidth that you are paying for and share it with whoever of their customers can access the router in your home behind your back...

Yup so you might be paying for 20MbS but they share it with their customers not you. This way they get to provision their global mobile network for free off of the paying residential customers.

In my country it happens the same. I guess the lucky customer whose router is being "shared" with some wrongdoers will receive a friendly visit from police.

Dirk PraetJuly 27, 2017 6:39 AM

Under the new EU GDPR, not only will collection, processing and further distribution of any such data be subject to explicit user consent, the user will also at any time have the right to revoke his consent as well as consult, modify and even delete such data ("right to be forgotten"). Maximum fines for non-compliance range from 4% of the company’s annual global revenue, or €20 million, whichever is higher.

I am currently looking into teaming up with a local law firm to offer both GDPR-compliance consultancy services (legal, HR, IT, and business processes), as well as a legal service to sue out of existence any IoT or other non-compliant mofos on behalf of customers whose privacy and data protection rights are being violated. It's gonna be easy money, and beats the hell out of real work 8-)

Just a small example: consumer electronics product developer Vizio was recently fined $2.2 million after the US consumer watchdog found that it had been using content recognition software to track users without obtaining their permission. Under the GDPR, Vizio (now part of LeEco, a Chinese company worth $7.3 billion revenue) risks similar privacy issues and as from May 28th 2018 will be exposed to a fine of $292 million.

Who?July 27, 2017 7:39 AM

@ Dirk Praet

Do you have an estimation of how much of that fine will go to the customer whose right to be forgotten has been violated?

Ergo_SumJuly 27, 2017 8:50 AM

@Wael...

The more interesting question is: Would it make you feel better [...] if you are a share holder, or would you dump the stocks?

That would be interesting, if I'd have Roomba stocks, but I don't. In my view, there's a correlation between stock prices and telemetry collection, at least in the case of Microsoft and probably others as well. I am looking at you Google...

MSFT stock price hovered around mid-thirty bucks from mid-2000 to early 2014, when the preview version of Windows 10, had became available with its extensive telemetry that had been retrofitted to Windows 7 and 8.x. Ever since then the stock price shows relatively steep upward trend, currently at $74.04. Not too bad for about three years time frame, after being stagnant for over a decade.

Certainly, there are other aspects that contributed to doubling the stock price, in addition to the extensive telemetry collection from the desktop with the largest market share. And no, I don't own Microsoft, Google, Apple and other software/service companies. On the other hand I do own IT hardware manufacturers stocks....

Dirk PraetJuly 27, 2017 9:38 AM

@ Who?

Do you have an estimation of how much of that fine will go to the customer whose right to be forgotten has been violated?

Zero percent. It will come on top of the earlier mentioned administrative fines payable to the supervising authority as data subjects will indeed have "the right to receive compensation" from either a data controller or data processor if they have "suffered material or immaterial damage as a result of an infringement of the Regulation". The level of punitive damages awarded to a data subject would of course depend on the nature and severity of the damage incurred and as demonstrated by his/her evil attorney(s) in a court of law. And yes, quite some EU countries have the equivalent of the US class action suit. It's gonna be B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L !

In the case of the recent IT scandal in Sweden, it would mean that pretty much every Swede could sue both IBM and the Swedish government.

ab praeceptisJuly 27, 2017 9:44 AM

As nobody else presents that position, I will do it, albeit largely (but not exclusively) for the sake of balance.

We are living in a strange triangular world.

On one side there is politics telling us about all the wonderful rights we have, how hard each and every politician (except, of course, those from the other party) works to protect and even enhance the wonderful rights we have.

On the second side there is media, advertising, and pr. They tell us how wonderful we are, how smart, how individual, and how we are the center the unviverse.

Finally, there is the third side, reality. Reality is usually quite quiet but the only side that really counts.
Reality, when asked, tells us things like: "Rights? F*ck you! You have no rights vs. a government that wanton gags you with e.g. nsl. You have no rights vs. a large corp unless you are able to spend no less millions on lawyers than they do."

And, of course, is asked, reality would also tell us this: *You* have created a society whose only god is mammon and in which almost everyone would be just as criminal and ignorant as roomba if only you ever were in their shoes.
You *know* that there is a plethora of problems and pretty much security whatsoever in all those funny new devices - yet you buy them, you bring them into your house, you activate them.

Expecting that roomba will honour and protect your privacy is about as smart as telling a falling bomb about your rights.

DustBuffaloJuly 27, 2017 10:39 AM

Haha, George Lucas never realized the first assassin droid would be a vacuum cleaner. IG-Roomba-88

I thought of some ideas, since cats love to ride a Roomba:
UV-C led antibacterial application (detects when no animals are in the room)

Roomba barista: serves drinks on a roving cooler or end table

If you have hardwoods or ceramic tile, this thing doesn't cut it. It would catch on fire from non-stop.

scot alexanderJuly 27, 2017 10:43 AM

@Daniel

I'm in Oklahoma, one of the least-funded, most paranoid, bible-thumping, gun-toting states there is, and at least partial floor plans are certainly available here. For example, here's a house that I know is currently up for sale:

http://www.assessor.tulsacounty.org/assessor-property.php?account=R71040832710990&go=1

And here's a random house from Vermont, which is about as politically diametrically opposed as you can get: https://property.burlingtonvt.gov/PropertyDetails.aspx?a=580

I'm sure more detailed records are available if you go looking for building permits, previous sales listings, etc. Certainly enough to pinpoint, say, the master bedroom precisely enough to drop a weaponized drone into it.

AdamJuly 27, 2017 10:44 AM

I can't see any rational reason anyone would want this device that gathers a map of their home. It serves no benefit to them, it's intrusive and it's outrageous considering the purpose of the device and how much it costs.

If a vacuum cleaner needs internet access for any reason then it's time to think of buying one that doesn't.

Clive RobinsonJuly 27, 2017 11:51 AM

@ Adam,

If a vacuum cleaner needs internet access for any reason then it's time to think of buying one that doesn't.

That is true for virtually every type of electronic device you have in your home. Especially the security stuff like CCTV and locks and alarm pannels...

Back in the early 1980's I was at a conferance about Domestic Wide Area Networking, where a question came up about the extension of what we would now call "The Internet coffee pot". A discussion developed about what a boon it would be to housewives --I kid you not-- and how they could get a recipie at the touch of a button where it would be based on all the food you had in the larder and fridge...

What we've got is worse, 50" plasma displays that watch you watching your p0rn, or pouring the beer or natchoes all over the floor because you had forgotton yould put them down by your feet befor you lumbered up to go use the facilities...

albertJuly 27, 2017 1:10 PM

@Dirk,
292 million is only 4% of 7.3 billion. Greedy as they are, that still amounts to a slap on the wrist. How much do they make selling the ill-gotten data? That's what I'd like to know. Nonetheless, I hope the laws work. They are sorely needed.
..
Samsung is marketing a new refrigerator with a large screen that lets you enter your shopping list, then read it on your smartphone when you're shopping. Easy peasey. I literally LOL'd when I first saw the TV commercial.
..
Many years ago (ca 1992), I received a new model razor in the mail. It was a 2-blade version being marketed at the time. I had been using the old double-edged blades in a 1940's razor. All brand G______ needed was my address (credit card) and data from the store (my shaving purchases) and bingo, I was a possible convert to the new tech. Best marketing ploy I've ever seen.
..
. .. . .. --- ....

neillJuly 27, 2017 3:43 PM

@clive, @bong

unfortunately we (as a security weary minority) can not control anymore (ha - did we ever?) what kind of devices are being pushed onto consumers, we will be forced to 'live with it' (or 'live with IoT')

so unless you go back to wax candles and no electricity in your home you're screwed

but we still have (some) control over our networks ... in the end you'll have to trust someone, be it cisco, juniper or dd-wrt ... you can still setup your own firewall and airsnort to check

(i know even that can be manipulated)

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained SpookJuly 27, 2017 3:54 PM

@ neill,

in the end you'll have to trust someone, be it cisco, juniper...

Come again? Have you heard of this or this or or or? Granted, you do have some control, but is it exclusive control or do you have an invisible partner?

Dirk PraetJuly 27, 2017 6:21 PM

@ albert

292 million is only 4% of 7.3 billion.

It was initially more, but got watered down due to powerful lobbying by the usual suspects. But let's not forget that it's 4% on revenue, not on profits, and that it can grow significantly more as a result of additional law suits brought forth by corporate and/or private data subjects. Which means that the total amount due in fines and punitive damages may still end up being so huge that no board can possibly justify it to its shareholders.

DustBuffaloJuly 27, 2017 6:34 PM

My Roomba is holding my bitcoins for ransom.

It's obvious, you need a treecam to watch your Roomba. Police state the police state. Fight back. You don't know what Roomba does when you're gone or sleeping.

Oh.. and... stop buying IoT devices. It's materialistic waste. I don't need a special watch to tell me how fat I am and send my gps tracking to complete strangers. Don't use security cams with half-baked opensource projects like gSOAP.

neillJuly 28, 2017 2:43 AM

@bong

no product is perfect, but as for routers, i believe that eg cisco products are better engineered than some noname, white box, chinese cheapo brands

disclosure : i do NOT work for cisco NOR sell their products, but i do own a few of those

Oh NoJuly 28, 2017 4:06 AM

Interesting point from Clive there. I has been under the impression that buying a device but then 'forgetting' to connect it to a network would be enough. If the device still works OK, then good. If it doesn't work without a connection, then return the product.
But now I'm taking note of Clive's observation that the device could quietly connect itself using its own userIDs to any convenient public WiFi. Not using my network at all. Then we're talking about removing antennae cables, or maybe even setting up networks which broadcast the spoofed SSID of a public WiFi, but which have no working connection.
Or just configure the device with the wrong house address and a mis-spelt owner's name. It would be entertaining to watch the housebreaker attack next door and bump into all the walls.

TSJuly 28, 2017 5:23 AM

And could robbers (ab)use the data to more quickly plan their entry and escape into the house?
Seems a very questionable thing for them to do,. who would benefit, other than nefarious individuals?

Those roomba things are expensive enough as it is,. i dont feel they should be allowed to sell your house layout / floorplan info.

Clive RobinsonJuly 28, 2017 5:49 AM

@ Orpheus Rocker,

it is a Roomba with a view

That is as bad as the note on a broken down elevator that says,

This Otis regrets...

For those not old enough to know "A room with a view" and "Miss Otis regrets" were songs that you great great granddad might have whistled, or hummed. Written respectively by Noel Coward and Cole Porter in 1928 and 1934.

Bong-Smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained Spook July 28, 2017 5:57 AM

@ neill,

i believe that eg cisco products are better engineered than some noname ...

Definitely! At least that was the case once upon a time.

vas pupJuly 28, 2017 8:56 AM

@Dirk Praet • July 27, 2017 6:39 AM
Under the new EU GDPR, not only will collection, processing and further distribution of any such data [!]be subject to explicit user consent[!], the [!]user will also at any time have the right to revoke his consent as well as consult, modify and even delete such data ("right to be forgotten")[!].

Dirk, thank you for that information. Europe basically is going into right direction on privacy - practice good to follow. User should be put in charge, not corporation. Unfortunately, for now the only federal structure moving in such direction (no so fast as desired) is CFPrB, but FTC and FCC are silent on that issue. Lobby for big business will do everything to prevent legislature adopt laws which will implement ideas in your post. That is bitter reality.

Dirk PraetJuly 28, 2017 10:18 AM

@ vas pup

Lobby for big business will do everything to prevent legislature adopt laws which will implement ideas in your post.

They sure will, and already have big time, but any US (5Eyes, Chinese, Russian or Arab) company that wants to continue doing business with the EU will have to comply too, whether they want it or not. And since the GDPR is not a directive, but a regulation, it will take effect as is, i.e. without any modifications to member state legislation required.

There is little doubt in my mind that some US companies will try to hide behind the controversial Privacy Shield with regards to data transfers, but I'm reasonably sure that it is just a matter of time before the ECJ strikes it down just like it did its Safe Harbour predecessor.

CaptainObviousJuly 28, 2017 11:47 AM

So, is there a CALEA compliance stamp somewhere on this device? Ima little fuzzy on the whole "backdoor every NIC with no handshake protocol" thing.

A future consumer dotCloud blowout. A statistical expected curve off from obvious failure or market saturation. These companies die because no amount of privacy invasion for market research will save from ego and desperation.

A valid conversation is the psychological pushback. Why is my coffee maker connected to the internet with a government backdoor?

*Disadvantages to directly employing opensource on commercial devices without much alteration. There is no shame in linux users admitting this. What allows for scrutiny, allows for hack. Sometimes, you have to code your own... and hide it.

neillJuly 28, 2017 12:52 PM

@oh no

clive has a good point there indeed, you never know what a device is really up-to unless you watch it .... alike "secret life of dogs"

hence my suggestion to use eg airsnort to watch what's going thru ... even that could be maipulated to NOT show the intel packets

unless you hook it up to an oscilloscope and match the air packets loged with their time of arrival on the scope

but again, the biggest risk to the user is still WPS, UPNP, some forgotten TELNET developer installed backdoor, ...

maybe we should burden the WiFi router makers more with prooving (and keeping) their devices are safe, instead of bashing IoT device makers - they wont do since their margins are too small to pay for it

Who?July 28, 2017 2:07 PM

@ neill

Now that we are talking about the "secret life of dogs"... what happens to the "secret life of dogs and roombas"?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/08/15/pooptastrophe-man-details-night-his-roomba-ran-over-dog-poop/88667704/

Roombas are sharing more than just data about our homes.

On a more serious note, it is sad these devices are collecting data about our homes and sharing it with the manufacturer. These devices are expensive enough as to make this "alternative business model" completely unaceptable, not to say they have enough computing power to store any data they need to do its work locally.

Who?July 28, 2017 2:17 PM

@ Dirk Praet

I agree. It will be beautiful. Information should be under control of those who emit it and, on the wild Internet, it usually means people, not corporations.

U.S. Corporations tend to ignore values as privacy or constitutional rights (not only the rights of foreigners but also their own citizens ones) but I have serious doubts they will ignore the huge amount of money it will cost to them violating the most basic rights of E.U. citizens.

I hope some day the United States will develop a similar law to protect their own citizens from the abuse of these corporations.

albertJuly 28, 2017 4:25 PM

@Dirk,
Too bad it's not 4% of -profits-. That would get the CEOs attention....while he was still working there, that is. Class action lawsuits can help, but take a lot of time.

Justice and the legal system are often at odds.

. .. . .. --- ....

neillJuly 29, 2017 2:48 AM

@who?

thanks for the link, even though it added even more horror to all concerns about roombas

many people i have talked to oppose data collections (win10, roomba etc) but when they read PR like " ... we are collecting data to improve our products ..." they sighed and allowed that to continue " ... if it really helps to make XYZ better ... then i'm OK with it ..."

the cause IMHO is user complacency with 20+ page EULAs where collection is allowed by clicking on "i agree", and the urge to always find the cheapest product (=amazon growth) that squeezes margins so much that the developers (have to) give up thorough product development

Wesley ParishJuly 29, 2017 4:56 AM

@Dirk Praet

Sounds good, that about the new EU regulations. Exactly what I've been saying for the past few years. nice to see I'm not alone.

Next thing is to get personal information recognized as being under copyright.

As we've seen in drawn-out Kim DotCom case in New Zealand and US courts, copyright infringement is now considered a major criminal offense in US courts. I would dearly love to break up a US company or two for copyright infringement for taking personal information submitted in good faith to their New Zealand representatives, selling it to the second company for advertising purposes, and then angering and frightening my mother by sending her advertising.

Personal data aka private information is generated by a person; it is unique to that person, thus fulfilling a major part of modern copyright law eg it expresses the unique identity of that individual; so since copyright infringement is now considered a criminal offense - according to the RIAA director during the 2000s, it is a worse offense than terrorism - so lets break up comanies left right and centre for copyright infringement, let's jail their boards of directors for knowingly and criminally infringing customers' copyrights. Etc.

Let's do an RIAA on the RIAA itself. Ditto the MPAA ... any more I should add?

WaelJuly 29, 2017 9:14 AM

@JG4,

From the squid thread...

Roombas have been mapping your homes for years...

It's not like blueprints of houses, or that satellite high res pictures of houses (alongside cars and humans that happen to be present in the driveway or backyard) aren't readily available[1]. What could Roombas possibly discover? How a couch, a chair, and a fridge are arranged? The texture of the carpet, or how dirty or clean the house is? What's the real purpose?

Product developer: We have this new feature to map houses!
VP of products: What are we going to do with it, and how will we monetize that? What's the ROI?
Product developer: We'll add the capability, put the data in the cloud, and expose a RESTful API that application developers may utilize!
VP of products: Great idea, get on it. We can advertise things based on what we discover at the house! Suggest a new carpet or carpet cleaner, reccomend dandruff shampoo for the pets, analyze skin samples and categorize insects collected! Yea! We can get a cut on selling insecticide, too! We can also, based on topology, suggest rearrangement of house furniture and even reccomended an interior designer to remodel the house for efficiency!
Product developer: We can also grant access to this data to spook agencies (hint, hint - wink, wink.)
VP of products: You're a genius! Just make sure the one I have at my house isn't sending data, or I'll can your *ss.
Product developer: Recreationsl drugs, boss?
VP of products: I want one of the older models that don't collect data.

I have a better idea! Add some sensors to Roombas to detect the type of garbage it collects, and see if there are any 'illegal drugs' or explosive traces collected. Then send a trigger to LE, especially if the person is about to travel.

[1] A few years ago I searched for my house address on real estate satellite images. I saw my house, my car in the driveway and a couple of pets in the image.

Wesley ParishAugust 1, 2017 3:38 AM

In connection with my previous comments on personal data and the like, I just remembered that if I am proved right that personal data is under copyright - and we're half-way there with the regulation that personal data is personally owned data, not corporately-owned data - then the world-famous Acne Corp so beloved of Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunners, will have to wait 50 to 70 years after I'm dead before they can safely use my data without consulting me. How they are to consult me after I'm dead, I'll leave it up to the imagination. Feel free ...

And also, there may be other charges one might lay against errant corporations ... full responsibility for taking care of the data that is after all, only entrusted to them and them alone. What happens when a company does not exercise due care and some lout of a script-kiddie phishes that data out and my private property gets burgled or something of that sort?

Fun and games, that's what's what.

Clive RobinsonAugust 1, 2017 5:45 PM

@ Wesley Parish,

I just remembered that if I am proved right that personal data is under copyright

It depends in general if it's an "act of art/work" or not. For instance you do not have copyright on your street address or telephone number, they belong to others such as the local municipality, post office and phone provider. Unless you change your name by deed pole or for the purposes of trade you do not have copyright on your name (but your parents might argue successfully that they do).

You do however have copyright on your house name if you give it one or rename it with a different one. However it would have to be "original" the old retirment name of "Dunroming" is by no means original.

The fly in the ointment is derived works. If I have an accurate list of streetnames I probably do not have copyright on it. If however you slip a couple of false ones in or even leave some out it becomes a derived work, thus copyright can be established.

Now an odd one, if you fill a form in by hand you actually have created a work and thus have copyright on the form. However if someone takes the form and types what you have written in to a computer then that is a derived work in it's own right.

In the US for instance the law in effect says that the data belongs to who ever collects it. In Europe to prevent this there is data protection legislation.

Of course none of the above realy matters, because you will almost always find some place in the world where there is either no applicable legislation or the legislation there is has more holes than a string vest. Then of course there is the likes of the USA where an organisation with deep pockets and a smart mouthed lawyer can in effect by the result they want, by the simple tactic of spending more money than you can...

And that is the point when it comes to those that make money by "Rent Seeking" most people can not aford to fight them, so they get away with theft of copyright.

JimAugust 4, 2017 1:09 PM

I don't like Roombas. We used to have one, and it would always seem to go where I was sitting, rather than to some unoccupied part of the room.

But even if I did want one, I don't need a "connected" or "smart" one. The claimed benefit of the mapping of your house, so that it can more smartly clean your house, doesn't require that the device be connected to any network; that functionality can all be handled locally in the device itself. I could leave an SD card plugged into my Roomba, and all the mapping info would be stored only on the SD card. Then, if I get a new Roomba, or otherwise dispose of the old one, I can remove the SD card, and only I then have the information. I can then insert that same SD card into the new Roomba, and it will have all of the mapping info for my house.

But then iRobot couldn't spy on me and sell the information, so I doubt it will ever happen.

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