Robot vacuum cleaners: How they can spy on you

Since the first model hit the market in the 2000s, robotic vacuum cleaners have evolved rapidly. They quickly clean every corner of your home, while the newest versions are very close to defeating their long-standing "enemies": the obstacles created by cables and shoelaces. irobot

"But we pay a high price, and we're not just talking about money here," says Roman Cuprik from the team at global digital security company ESET. "To avoid obstacles, modern robotic vacuum cleaners are equipped with sensors, or even cameras! Using powerful tools to pick up your dust, your smart vacuum also picks up something else: your… personal data.”

Incidents such as leaked photos of a woman in the toilet they raise questions about how much your robotic vacuum cleaner actually knows about you and – more importantly – what data it sends to others.

How much does your vacuum cleaner know about you? 

Some well-known incidents could give us some clues. 

In early 2022, the MIT Technology Review acquired private photos from home interiors and personal photos taken from low angles. According to the publication, these photos were taken from a version of the series Roomba J7 of iRobot.

Η iRobot – one of the world's best-known robotic vacuum cleaner suppliers – confirmed that these images were taken of its devices in 2020 as part of a product development process.

The images were taken by the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba and then sent to stairs AI, which uses them to develop artificial intelligence and which ultimately helps it iRobot improve its products by recognizing more objects and obstacles. Unfortunately, in this case, some of its employees stairs AI they did not honor confidentiality agreements and shared the photos taken from the vacuum cleaners in private groups on social media.

Show me your house and I'll tell you what you need 

In August 2022, η Amazon announced its intention to acquire the iRobot. At a time of greater regulatory concern about market competition and privacy, the deal raised concerns about what data the company could collect. Amazon and how they might be used. In July 2023, the The European Commission has announced an official investigation into the deal to assess whether she could give a company like the Amazon a big advantage – that is, if the collected images could be used to improve organic buying suggestions and better tailored ads based on real personal data.

"For example, robotic vacuum cleaners can learn your daily routine based on the cleaning schedule you set," informs ESET's Cuprik. "Similarly, stored floor plans of interiors reveal the size and design of a house, which can indicate things like income levels and other information about someone's living conditions. And, of course, a data leak could potentially reveal images of your space, including ways to identify who you are and where you live."

Spying on your vacuum cleaner? 

Inspired by the eavesdropping technique used since the Cold War, the 2020 survey conducted by computer scientists of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Maryland (UMD), turned the navigation systems of robotic vacuum cleaners into laser microphones.

In this way, the vacuum cleaner can record the changes in vibrations produced in response to the pressure waves created. These changes can eventually translate so that a conversation taking place in that room can be heard.

The more capable a smart device is, the more it knows about you 

Recent versions of robotic vacuum cleaners usually keep a blueprint of your home and can be operated through a s for smartphone. Many of these models also feature voice control, usually compatible with the Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. And most of the smart features come from cameras, sensors and microphones.

If you want a robotic vacuum cleaner with an emphasis on privacy, consider devices that rely on inertial measurements by combining gyroscopes and accelerometers. The reason is simple: these devices do not need cameras, lasers or mapping to work. However, the downside is that they move less efficiently than their high-end counterparts and may repeatedly pass through the same areas of your home. 

When it comes to controlling a vacuum cleaner from your phone, use secure mobile apps instead of voice control.

Protect your data – what to consider before buying a new smart vacuum cleaner 

Let's see what Roman Cuprik from the ESET team suggests.

  1. Some models can also work offline (offline) without certain functions such as remote control or programming. Other sweepers must be specifically configured not to send data to the manufacturer's server.
  2. Many smart vacuums can also deny entry to certain rooms, such as a bedroom or bathroom. This can be done through the settings or by using virtual "walls". 
  3. Before you buy your new robotic vacuum cleaner, check its manufacturer. Choose those manufacturers that favor data encryption and require two-factor authentication to access the device's mobile apps.
  4. Choose a vendor that offers regular updates to the mobile app and the firmware (firmware) of the vacuum cleaner.
  5. Always check the shelf life of the product you are buying and how long it is expected to receive support from the manufacturer.

Putting our convenience above our privacy  

The evolution of smart vacuum cleaners is an example of how people are choosing convenience over privacy. The more capable our smart devices are and the more data they are allowed to collect, the more they intrude into our lives - so the less likely it is to keep one's privacy fully intact.

However, for those who put their privacy and data protection above their convenience, the best way to stay away from prying eyes is to use the good old "not so smart" devices. "A simple vacuum cleaner may take longer to finish cleaning the house, but at least it won't take pictures of you while you're on the toilet," says Cuprik.

However, if you still find robotic vacuum cleaners too convenient to avoid, then one way to maintain some semblance of control over your privacy is to be selective with their settings and the data they can collect. The Best Technology Site in Greecefgns

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Although the press releases will be from very select to rarely, I said to go ... because sometimes the authors are hiding.

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