Roomba to Sell Map of Your House

John Lister's picture

The makers of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner plan to sell data about people's homes to tech giants. It could bring personalized advertising to a whole new level.

Colin Angle is chief executive of iRoboto Corp, which makes the Roomba. He told Reuters that the company could sell user data to Amazon, Apple or Google in the next couple of years. (Source:

The scope of the data involved is surprisingly detailed. Early models of robotic cleaners simply moved in a straight line until they hit an object. Modern versions build up and store maps of a home's floor space, including the location and size of furniture, so that they can take an optimum path to clean the whole floor without wasted movement, thus extending battery life.

Home Tech Could Improve

That data could be hugely valuable to tech companies. In some cases it might be used to improve products. For example, with Amazon, Apple and Google all selling smart 'personal assistants' based around portable speakers, knowing a room's layout could let them give placement tips or even tweak the direction in which the sound is beamed out.

The data could also be used for other products such as air conditioning systems or 'smart' home lighting, with the airflow and brightness adjusted based on the size and layout of rooms.

Advertisers Would Be Interested

Alternatively, the data could be used for targeted advertising. For example, the Roomba data could give a good idea of the size and type of furniture somebody has (and doesn't have). In turn that could lead to ads for specific products.

A potential deal to share the data does raise privacy issues. Angle says iRobot won't sell data unless customer's give permission, and the company's privacy policy backs this up. However, the small print also leaves room to get round this permission requirement if iRobot were to buy an ownership stake in another company or vice versa. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you be happy for data about the layout of your room to be shared with other companies? Does the prospect of improved gadgetry outweigh any privacy complaints? Can you think of any other uses - positive or negative - for the data?

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Average: 5 (6 votes)


malper1942's picture

This is a terrible idea. It is an invasion of privacy and should not be allowed.

Dennis Faas's picture

I completely agree. I own a Roomba (purchased about 5 or more years ago) but as far as I know it does not have any 'smart' web technology built into it. Maybe that's a good thing!

Lipl1_2237's picture

Most people fill out the customer card for warranty and customer list. I doubt ANYONE expected a company to see a detailed map of of their house. So if I owned a Roomba I'd demand a refund. As for the data how secure is the data does it mean now someone knows which room contains what items? I can see a new sales disclaimer: "We will may sell the layout of your house to the highest bidder".

jomar's picture

Do you own a Roomba, or does the Roomba own you?
The "invasion of privacy" comes about by your decision. You allow the invasion.
Don't blame the device.
Do you own a cellphone or does the cellphone own you?
I personally will not allow a cellphone to tell me what to think or do.
Some people rely on their cellphone to give them data and advice.(siri) This is ludicrous.
Put down that cellphone and get on with your life.
A cellphone has a value. Do not allow the cellphone to go beyond that value.
Don't get things wrong. Cellphones have a great value. They save time and money as a communication device. They are a great safety device. But they can and will consume your life if you allow them.
As for roomba, if you cannot get out your broom and dust pan, then I almost feel sorry for you.

David's picture

This data collecting to the Nth degree has to be stopped. TVs reporting what we watch, phones reporting where we are, etc. And now vacuum cleaners. Enough is enough! We need a Consumer Privacy Protection Act, whereby all of this data 'sharing' has to be affirmative opt-in only, service not deniable for not opting in; and simply buying a product should never count as an opt-in.

ecash's picture

Lets ask..
Why do I have all these SPY's in my home..
A Vacuum that SCANS my home..
A device that LISTENS to every word, and WAITS for me to say Key words to Make it do something..NOT START the unit, as its ALWAYS LISTENING..
A Furby in my house that sends DATA SAMPLES to the company to analyze..??(yep, its true)
Your PHONE can now be hacked by the Justice dept, or ANYONE to just listen to you..ITS A COMPUTER it has a SPEAKER/ has Wifi/BT/CELL access.. There are some nice uses for this device, but HOW easy is it to make it something ELSE..

Think of Itunes sending data for ANY audio/video you play on your computer or SEND to another device..YEP, they do this..and if the GOV/POLICE/RIAA asked for it??

Problem with Adverts..
Ever goto Amazon/google/newegg, and then another site and see ADVERTS for the SAME product you just bought??
Fun isnt it..but I only NEED 1 Switch for my lawn mower, I dont need 20 more..
they KNOW what you bought, and keep trying to sell the SAME product to you..
Clothing and shoes could be OK, as you may need more..