Dangerous complacency when accepting end-user agreements

Photographer: Rawpixel.com

Photographer: Rawpixel.com

“iRobot, the makers of the popular automated vacuum, the Roomba, could share the data it collects about people’s houses to tech companies that create “smart” home tools: corporations like Amazon, Apple, or Google. As Reuters described, the data that iRobot might share elsewhere is “of the spatial variety” – that is, information such as the distance between walls or furniture, the sort of details that might make a device that heats a room more efficient, or might allow someone to market missing items to future customers. Is that weird?,” wrote Colin Horgan for CBC News on August 3, 2017.

Horgan continued, “Privacy advocates think so. Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, a U.K. online rights nonprofit, told the Guardian that iRobot’s decision to share data is a “particularly creepy example of how our privacy can be undermined by companies that want to profit from the information that smart devices can generate about our homes and lives.” Companies ought to treat data about people’s homes as if it were personal data, he said, “and ensure that explicit consent is sought to gather and share this information.”

But even if it were treated as personal data, would anyone be more careful with it?

Reading the terms and conditions

The Roomba’s terms and conditions already carry a clause that states that owners allow data collected to be shared with “other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares,” as well as in a few other instances. Do company assets include the data the vacuum cleaner collects? Probably. Is that enough of a hint to tell Roomba owners what might happen to the mapping data their vacuum cleaner will collect? Most consumers would likely say no.”

Read the full article here. 

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