How to keep a Roomba from spying on you

Jeanine Skowronski


Jeanine Skowronski

Jeanine Skowronski

Former Head of Content at Policygenius

Jeanine Skowronski is the former head of content at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, American Banker Magazine, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, CNBC and more.

Published July 27, 2017 | 3 min read

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Featured Image How to keep a Roomba from spying on you

ICYMI: iRobot is thinking about selling the data its high-end Roombas have on your home.I didn’t know this because I don’t robot, but apparently the Roomba 980 and Roomba 960 have cameras and sensors they use to learn the layout of a home. That keeps them from running into walls — which, OK, fine — but it also creates a map. And, if you’re using the iRobot Home app to keep tabs on what your Roomba is up to all day, well, that map can wind up in the cloud. Or, ultimately, with some giant tech company, since iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters this week he was looking to strike a deal with one in the next few years.Who’s spying now, huh?

How to remind your Roomba who’s boss

Now, there’s a chance Roomba 900 owners know their cute little robot vacuum is collecting data. Its outlined in the iRobot Home app’s terms of service, which you must accept to receive your Roomba’s cleaning reports. (And everyone reads the terms of service.)

Plus, to be fair, iRobot isn’t currently selling any data. It’s just thinking about it for now.

“We will never violate trust by selling or misusing customer-related data, including data collected by our connected products,” an iRobot spokesman told PolicyGenius in an email. “iRobot believes that in the future, this information could provide even more value for our customers by enabling the smart home and the devices within it to work better, but always with their explicit consent.

iRobot says the only information currently sent to its network is the map the Roomba creates during cleaning jobs and that the data in the cloud is “encrypted and stored securely.”

Per Angle’s interview with Reuters, the aim of any data-selling is to make smart homes smarter. So, for instance, if your sound system knew the scope of a room, it could adjust its volume all on its own. Or your lights could self-calibrate based on where your windows are.

Stuff like that has a certain appeal, I guess, if you’ve already got a robot maid sending daily reports. But, if you didn’t know your Roomba was sending maps of your house to the cloud or you want to opt out now that there’s a chance the spatial data could trade hands, here are your options.

1. Program your Roomba 900 to keep its mouth shut.

You can have your connected features and stay cloudless, too, iRobot says. Just opt out of receiving a Clean Map report. You can do that by selecting “more” then “settings” and switching off the toggle next to “Clean Map report” in the app. That’ll keep maps of your home out of the cloud, but still let you boss your Roomba around through your Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

2. Do a Roomba Reset.

You don’t have to hook your Roomba up to the internet. It’ll pick up dirt just fine without wifi. (And, given all Roombas have sensors, it should do alright with the walls, too, though you can always get it some renters insurance if you’re really concerned.) iRobot says you can cut off all data transmission by resetting your Roomba. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Go to the settings tab in the iRobot Home app and click “Reset Roomba”.

  2. Press and hold all three buttons on your Roomba for about 10 to 15 seconds. You’ll hear a tone and see some lights flashing, indicating the wifi settings were erased.

3. Buy a cheap Roomba.

OK, cheap isn’t exactly the right word here, because the least expensive Roomba listed on iRobot’s website as of writing this was close to $400. But, as we mentioned earlier, only the Roomba 980 and Roomba 960 are trained to spy map. (There are a few other wifi-connected Roombas, though.)

4. Vacuum Yourself.

Sure, it’s a chore. But no one ever accused that old-school Hoover of leeeeaaarrrrrrrrrnnnning. Just saying.

Image: Onfokus