from the what-could-go-wrong dept
So while the internet-connected age has delivered untold innovation, it has also been a total shitshow for privacy and security. The internet-of-broken-things can’t seem to go a week without reports of another major privacy screw up, and even your kid’s Barbie is now collecting snippets of data that can be sold to the highest bidder. And while throwing a WiFi chipset into something isn’t such a bad idea, companies are so eager to boost revenues that actually securing these products — or respecting customers’ privacy — has repeatedly been shown to be a distant afterthought.
The latest hot topic of conversation on this front is iRobot, makers of robot-vacuum Roomba. iRobot CEO Colin Angle turned a few heads this week after he told Reuters that the company is considering selling all of the data the company’s robot collects about the size and layout of your home, to companies like Apple and Google:
“There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” said Angle. That vision has its fans, from investors to the likes of Amazon, Apple and Alphabet, who are all pushing artificially intelligent voice assistants as smart home interfaces… Angle told Reuters that iRobot, which made Roomba compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in March, could reach a deal to sell its maps to one or more of the Big Three in the next couple of years.
“[We may share your personal information with] other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares, reorganization, financing, change of control or acquisition of all or a portion of our business by another company or third party or in the event of bankruptcy or related or similar proceeding.”
In other words, this mouse print implies that there are oodles of situations in which your consent won’t be necessary to sell private data about yourself and your home, even if by law Roomba may be required to inform you (generally and with a lot of marketing hype, of course) this is happening. That’s assuming consumers even care, since most of us simply click “accept” on the TOS without giving much of a damn either way, quickly understanding that we’re probably being screwed in some fashion, but having neither the time nor patience to understand how.
But this bidirectional apathy becomes a problem cumulatively. Customers aren’t reading rights-eroding TOS because they’re too long, while every device in the home is now tracking, storing and monetizing your every heartbeat — from children’s toys that track your kids’ babble, to smart home electric meters that tell companies and their marketing partners when you’re at work or sleeping. Top that off with the paper mache grade security embedded in most of these products, and you begin to understand why the smart security analysts are warning people that a very big and rather nasty dumpster fire is just over the horizon.