Roomba says leaked photos, including one of a woman on the toilet, were taken by test vacuum cleaners, not purchased

Robot vacuum cleaners like the Roomba could pose data privacy risks, experts say.roborock

  • Robotic vacuum maker iRobot has confirmed that sensitive images leaked online were taken by its devices.

  • Roomba said the images, including one of a woman on the toilet, were taken only from test units.

  • Images leaked by Venezuelan contractors from Scale AI who worked with iRobot, reported MIT Tech Review.

Roomba robot vacuum cleaners captured sensitive images that were later leaked on social media, including one of a woman sitting on the toilet, but the machine maker says they were taken from test models, not consumer units, it said for the first time the MIT Tech Review.

iRobot, which makes the Roomba, said the self-driving vacuum cleaners were being used by “data collectors and paid employees” as test units that would help the company develop its machine learning capabilities. The disclosure comes as Amazon is working to close a $1.7 billion deal to buy iRobot, raising questions about how tech companies use and protect the data they recover.

The data from these test units was marked up by a contractor, noting things like whether the robot successfully navigated its way around an obstacle, such as a coffee table. But images of that data have been leaked to Facebook, Discord and other social sites, MIT Tech Review reported, and iRobot confirmed to Insider.

The images included a woman in a purple T-shirt, her face blurry, sitting on the toilet, the Tech Review reported, and a baby lying on her stomach as she stares at the recording object.

The images were leaked by Venezuelan contractors paid to data startup Scale AI who posted them to private groups on Facebook, Discord and other platforms in 2020, MIT Tech Review reported.

While the images aren’t from Roomba customers, consumers often choose to have their data tracked once they purchase “smart” devices as part of the company’s privacy policies. Smart device makers sometimes analyze data, which can sometimes include personal or sensitive details, to train algorithms to improve their products.

James Baussmann, an iRobot spokesman, confirmed the photo leak to Insider. Asked for further comment, Baussman directed Insider to a blog post by iRobot president and CEO Colin Angle.

Angle wrote that the test bots contained hardware and software modifications that were never commercially available to consumers. And Baussmann told Insider that “iRobot has strict data processing agreements in place with our service providers that require sensitive data to be treated as confidential information.”

In this case, Scale AI contractors, also known as data labelers, worked on a project for iRobot to tag photos so that robot vacuum cleaners could better recognize objects in their surroundings, according to MIT Tech Review.

Data labelers are low paid contract workers outside the United States. Experts who spoke to the labelers told MIT Tech Review that they found the job “really inconvenient.”

iRobot told Insider that sharing internal images to social media groups violates Scale AI’s privacy agreements and that it is terminating its relationship with San Francisco-based Scale AI. Scale AI told the magazine that its data taggers who shared the images have broken their agreements. Insiders reached out to Scale AI for further comments.

Meanwhile, more than 95 percent of iRobot’s image dataset comes from the homes of iRobot employees or volunteers at other third-party data providers who agree to use development devices in exchange for undisclosed rewards, according to the review.

Advanced devices like iRobot’s Roomba J7 series roam homes and contain built-in front-facing cameras for navigation, object recognition, and home monitoring.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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