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The Roomba robotic vacuum has been whizzing across floors for years, but its future may lie more in collecting data than dirt. – Reuters

Roomba® is a series of autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners sold by iRobot. Introduced in 2002, Roombas are powered by a series of smart sensors that automatically guide the robot around your home. The robot makes 60 decisions every second, is able to change direction upon encountering an obstacle, and can navigate under furniture and around clutter to thoroughly clean your floors.

All robovacs use short-range infrared or laser sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, but when the Roomba 980 was introduced in 2015, it became the first Wi-Fi model. While it quietly picked up dust, a camera, new sensors, and updated software gave the robovac the ability to also map out the layout of the home.

Now, Colin Angle, the chief executive of iRobot, has said he wants to sell the data from these maps to whoever might want it. Angle told Reuters that he hopes to reach a deal to sell these maps to Google, Apple, or Amazon within the next couple of years. He said all three could greatly benefit from the data within the home maps as they vie to offer the best smart home assistance.

Selling data about users’ homes raises clear privacy issues; it can also be a scary thing. While it may seem that the information gathered is minimal, consider this. When mapping your house, a Roomba knows areas that need extra cleaning and obstacles such as furniture and toys. What if the data was hacked and someone burglarized your home?

Angle told Reuters that user data won’t be sold without customer permission. However, Angle believes most people will want to take advantage of the greater functionality. The iRobot Home app does clearly inform users that they are capable of turning off the cloud sharing functions, although technically, the iRobot terms of service and privacy policy say they have the right to share your personal information. There is also a clause that states iRobot could share the users’ personal data with other companies owned by iRobot, third party vendors and affiliates, the government, and in “any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares.”

Shouldn’t companies treat personal data with utmost confidentiality, rather than complying with the minimal legal requirements simply for profit? Would you be willing to give up data maps of your home? Does convenience trump privacy?

Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” (available on major online book store sites) and “Betrayal of Justice” (to be released this fall).

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