iRobot has over the years discussed its approach to protecting customer data collected by its Roomba robot vacuums. And it’s doing so again as the topic has resurfaced thanks to Amazon’s pending $1.7 billion acquisition of iRobot.
There haven’t been too many consumer robotics companies to write home about in recent memory. And, unfortunately, these privacy concerns have overshadowed the major success story that is iRobot. The newest Roombas use cameras to navigate around and create maps of their environments. According to iRobot, customers can opt out of having its robots store the layout of their homes.
Nevertheless, data privacy advocates worry that Roombas give Amazon more eyes into our homes and a deeper understanding of products we might be more likely to purchase. Amazon has denied this, saying “we do not use home maps for targeted advertising and have no plans to do so.”
In a blog posted on LinkedIn this morning, iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle said that “iRobot does not – and will not – sell customers’ personal information. Our customers control the personal information they provide us, and we use that information to improve robot performance and the customer’s ability to directly control a mission.”
If the Amazon acquisition is approved, the e-commerce giant will become iRobot’s owner, not a third party. It doesn’t seem like Amazon would have to pay iRobot for customer data, but we’ll likely never the see the legal documents for this acquisition and any fine print about data privacy. Angle said iRobot’s stance on data privacy will not change when the acquisition by Amazon is finalized.
Angle also wrote about how creating maps of your home and identifying objects such as pet waste, cords, shoes and other objects allows the robot vacuums to clean more effectively. “This personalization is directed entirely by the customer and may be modified or deleted at any time.”
iRobot in recent years has also built out voice control through integration with Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant and Siri (Apple). Angle again stressed that voice control capabilities need to be enabled by customers.
“To enable this integration, limited data would be shared with the customer’s preferred voice assistant. This level of data sharing with third parties is enabled only by the customer’s explicit permission, and that will continue to be the case.”
With the combination of Roomba, Alexa, Ring doorbells, the Astro robot other smart products, Amazon could have an incredible amount of data about one’s home. So don’t expect privacy concerns associated with Amazon to die down any time soon.
We have reprinted Angle’s post below in its entirety. It was first posted on LinkedIn.
At iRobot, protecting customer data and privacy is of the utmost importance as we explore the path forward for home robotics and the future of the home. For 20 years now, iRobot customers have been welcoming our products into their homes to clean and help them do more. That trust is the foundation of our relationship with our customers, and we work to earn it every day.
iRobot does not – and will not – sell customers’ personal information. Our customers control the personal information they provide us, and we use that information to improve robot performance and the customer’s ability to directly control a mission.
Today, Roomba and Braava robots create maps that allow customers to identify objects within the home – enabling more effective cleaning, and providing customers with valuable information about cleaning performance. The Roomba j7 can see and avoid pet waste, cords, shoes and other objects to ensure it finishes the job without getting stuck or creating a mess. iRobot’s connected home robots use a Smart Map to identify rooms and furniture, allowing customers to personalize their cleaning missions and clean specific rooms or particularly dirty areas of the home, like around the kitchen counter. This personalization is directed entirely by the customer and may be modified or deleted at any time.
The Smart Map and images of objects the robot encounters during cleaning are fully encrypted and sent to the cloud, where they are secure and available for customer viewing via the iRobot Home App. If a customer chooses, they can enable voice control through services like Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. To enable this integration, limited data would be shared with the customer’s preferred voice assistant. This level of data sharing with third parties is enabled only by the customer’s explicit permission, and that will continue to be the case. Our position is, “Your information belongs to you. If you’re letting us have access to it, we must treat it with the utmost respect.”
Here’s what I can tell you about iRobot’s unwavering commitment to protecting the privacy of our customers:
We’re always clear about what information we collect and why we collect it, proactively communicating with our customers to ensure transparency.
We always protect customer data with the highest standards of privacy protection.
We put customers in control, and if they don’t want their data shared with us, they can change their settings in the iRobot Home App.
We keep all data secure from start to finish, adding multiple layers of protection around our robots, cloud and app.
Our commitment to privacy will not change once we are acquired by Amazon. Amazon shares the same strong commitment to privacy and has a long history of protecting customer data across all of its businesses. iRobot is positioned to become one of those businesses, and we’re impressed with how Amazon works to earn and maintain customer trust. I’m excited for what lies ahead, and I couldn’t be happier that both organizations share the core value of protecting our customers’ privacy.
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