The Truth About the Roomba and Your Privacy
Today’s smart home solutions are the perfect marriage of convenience and technology, offering users the ability to control various devices from a single app and streamline their everyday routine.
As we continue to adopt new devices that make our lives easier, it’s essential to understand the potential risks associated with this type of technology.
If you own a Roomba, you know how awesome they are. These little guys will vacuum your floors on their own while you’re away or even while you’re at home! But are these robotic vacuums also a threat to your privacy? Here’s everything you need to know about Roomba and your privacy…
Here is the truth, in my experience
Roombas today have a lot of sensors and cameras, which they use to navigate and identify objects to avoid collision and obstruction. These sensors are connected to the internet so you can control your Roomba from your phone.
I work with IoT and internet security every day. I can say that there is a lot of security involved with communicating from devices to the internet. Often smart devices like Roombas use end-to-end encryption, which means the sender and receiver must have the same matching access key, for them to understand each other.
This means that you cannot tap into what data the Roomba is sending, because all you’ll see is gibberish, because you don’t have the access key to unlock the encryption.
If encryption is done by the book, not even the people behind Roomba can see the data, because all encryption is done at a machine level. So only machines with the right key have access to viewing the data, which you can only get if you are the correct machine viewing it.
Like any other computer, a Roomba can of course get hacked. No device or server in the world is 100% secure.
I can with confidence say, that I’m not worried about the safety of my privacy in a Roomba.
How does a Roomba gather data?
Roombas are smart devices that can be controlled via a mobile app. The app will pair with the Roomba, allowing users to start a cleaning cycle from anywhere. The app will also have the ability to monitor scheduling, battery life, etc.
However, the vacuum cleaner itself does not store any information. Instead, data is stored on the user’s smart home network. This network will store information like the number of times the Roomba has been used, the last time it was used, where it was last used, and what type of device it is.
Instead of having all of this data stored in one place, the smart home network will break up the information and distribute it among connected devices. For example, if you have a smart thermostat, smart light bulbs, and a smart doorbell, the smart home network will distribute the data among all of these devices.
What data does a smart vacuum collect?
Mostly, the smart home network will store data about when the Roomba was last used and where it was used. This information includes the last time the appliance was used, the model number, the last location that was used, and the last cleaning session.
Data will also include how often the device is used and when the device was last connected to the network, among other information. These devices will also collect your home WiFi network’s SSID, BSSID, and MAC address. This data is used by smart devices in order to communicate with your home WiFi and is not stored on the device itself.
What does iRobot do with the data it collects?
iRobot has not been very forthcoming with its data collection policies. However, we do know a few things for certain:
– iRobot only collects anonymized data.
– The data is used to improve their products.
– Data is not sold to third parties. While the company does not explicitly state that they do not sell user data, it is unlikely that it would be able to sell data to third parties.
The data stored by the smart home network does not contain information that is specific enough to identify a single user. It would be more likely that the data would be sold to companies that want to use it for research and development purposes.
Why are smart home devices a concern for privacy?
This concern arises from the fact that the devices are always connected to the internet. It is important to know that the devices connected to your smart home network are constantly communicating with each other, your WiFi, and the cloud.
Theoretically, the government or law enforcement agencies could force your internet service provider to hand over information that is connected to your home network. This may include device identification numbers, timestamps, and other data that could potentially be used to identify you.
Is the Roomba listening to you?
First and foremost, no device is capable of listening to your conversations in real-time. This is because communications are transmitted in one direction, from the device to the server.
There is no way for a device to “listen” to what you are saying unless you are talking to it. This is the reason that Siri and other voice assistants do not work when the device is muted.
However, there is always a possibility that a future device could have the capability to listen in real-time.
Should you be worried about your Roomba?
For the most part, you shouldn’t be too worried about your Roomba spying on you. It is true that the device is always connected to the internet. However, the data stored in the device is not specific enough to identify you or any individuals.
The data is useful for debugging issues, identifying how often the device is being used, and to what extent. iRobot could potentially use this data to improve future products, but they would need to combine the data with information that identifies specific device users.
Depending on your WiFi network’s security settings, there is also a small chance that a hacker could access your device. You can minimize this risk by changing the WiFi network’s password.
Does a Roomba violate the Fourth Amendment?
First and foremost, it is important to know that a Roomba is not a law enforcement tool. However, the device does collect data that could potentially be used as evidence and violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
The data stored by the smart home network could possibly be used as evidence against you in a court of law. This data could consist of information about the device itself. This includes the device’s model number, WiFi connection information, and MAC address. The data stored on the device could include:
– Date and time the device was used.
– WiFi connection information.
– MAC address.
– The device’s serial number.
– The device’s last cleaning session.
– The device’s last location.
For the most part, a Roomba or any other smart device connected to your home WiFi network is not listening in on your conversations. Furthermore, the devices collect data that is useful for debugging issues and improving future products.
With that being said, it is important to be aware of the data being collected and how it could potentially be used against you in a court of law.
Morten has been working with technology, IoT, and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected in this blog to give you relevant and correct information.Read more...