Colin Angle: “iRobot will never sell your data”


The Issue

Last week, news started flooding in that Roomba’s mapping data might be sold. Public reacted with concerns about privacy and security, issues that are becoming everyday more pressing as we allow smart devices in our homes.

iRobot CEO Colin Angle is pictured at iRobot Shanghai office in Shanghai, China, May 16, 2017. Picture taken on May 16, 2017. Courtesy iRobot/Handout via REUTERS

It all started with an interview with Reuters in which iRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle allegedly told  that iRobot would allow for the mapping data collected by Roomba to be sold to third parties. He then went on mentioning Amazon, Google and Apple as possible acquirers, as iRobot wishes to expand its compatibility with the major smart assistants on the market. Currently, Roomba is only compatible to Amazon’s Alexa since March.

New devices like Roomba 900 series feature built-in camera with the purpose of collecting pictures and images for area mapping. In reality, many smart devices are equipped with cameras but none are able to move around the home like Roomba does. Naturally, concerns have been raised on the access to these pictures and the potential use of these by companies like Amazon.

The resolution

This week, conscious of the stir caused by the first interview, Angle and iRobot wrote a follow-up letter to ZDNet addressing some of the questions raised and rectifying what was circulated in the news.

Angle, in fact, tells that his words were misinterpreted and he emphasises that he never said anything about selling customers maps or data to other companies.

In his opening statement “ iRobot will never sell your data”, Angle puts all the rumours to rest. He then focuses on the importance for the customer and customer only to access and use the data collected by iRobot devices.

Angle continues assuring Roomba’s customers that:” Information that is shared needs to be controlled by the customer and not as a data asset of a corporation to exploit…Customers have control over sharing it” and  “You may also want your robot to work with other connected devices in your home. For this to work, we will also require your permission, and we will always ensure secure means of communication between devices.”

He goes on to also rectify the issues raised regarding the images taken by the camera on Roomba 900 devices :”It’s also important to point out that the camera doesn’t see things like we do. The robot perceives its environment as a pattern of light and dark points in its field of view…The camera is a low-resolution camera…”

Our thoughts

Companies like iRobot have huge responsibility towards its customers to keep protecting their privacy and security, if they want to have people take on the idea of smart home. We really hope that as a result, they will keep faithful to their missions and not be motivated only by financial gain. As huge enthusiast of all things smart, we want to see this market grow but one thing is for sure, it won’t come withou its challenges.