Ceiling Roomba is watching you poop

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

The images were not taken by a person, but by development versions of iRobot's Roomba J7 series robot vacuum. They were then sent to Scale AI, a startup that contracts workers around the world to label audio, photo, and video data used to train artificial intelligence. [...]

James Baussmann, iRobot's spokesperson, said [...] that the images were "shared in violation of a written non-disclosure agreement between iRobot and an image annotation service provider." [...]

Ultimately, though, this set of images represents something bigger than any one individual company's actions. They speak to the widespread, and growing, practice of sharing potentially sensitive data to train algorithms, as well as the surprising, globe-spanning journey that a single image can take -- in this case, from homes in North America, Europe, and Asia to the servers of Massachusetts-based iRobot, from there to San Francisco -- based Scale AI, and finally to Scale's contracted data workers around the world (including, in this instance, Venezuelan gig workers who posted the images to private groups on Facebook, Discord, and elsewhere).

Together, the images reveal a whole data supply chain -- and new points where personal information could leak out -- that few consumers are even aware of.

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8 Responses:

  1. Zygo says:

    That's Basement Roomba.

  2. 2

    This is why none of my cats have cybernetic eyes.

  3. kudzu surfer says:

    Hot! More pics of those kitchen cabinets, plz.

  4. Eric says:

    Would I be stating the obvious if I said that a camera at this angle makes no sense for carpet cleaning but would be perfect for, let's say the CIA?

  5. Shidoisi says:

    Internet of shit, on so many levels.

  6. 4

    The eagerness of my fellow humans to equip their homes with surveillance devices controlled by unknown parties never ceases to amaze.

    • jwz says:

      Hard to say that anyone was "eager" to have their Roomba watching them poop. I have a Roomba with no camera in it, and no storage. It's great.

  7. CSL3 says:

    Well, that's inconvenient, but let's not jump to conclusions. It's not as if Roomba is owned by a company that saw their acquisition as just another form of surveillance or anything.

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