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Robot vacuum recorded a woman on the toilet, and screenshots got leaked online

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Dec 23, 2022 12:36 pm

Getting your data collected by modern technology has gotten a lot of people paranoid that their private life and information might get shared with strangers on the internet, and that's exactly what happened to one woman. She was recorded by her robot vacuum using the toilet, and the screenshots ended up online.

Technology information site MIT Technology Review had obtained 15 screenshots that were leaked into private Facebook groups back in 2020, which one showing a young woman with her shorts pulled down as she was using the toilet. 

The scandalous picture was not taken by a human being, but by a Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner made and sold by iRobot. The test model was given the function take videos as it cleaned in order to send it to Scale AI, a startup company that helps train artificial intelligence.

iRobot Chief-Executive-Officer Colin Angle emphasized in his LinkedIn post that collecting data is important in helping robots become smart.

"It starts during the development process, and as part of that, through the collection of data to train machine learning algorithms. Collecting this data enables us to build the intelligence inside our products that powers features like object recognition and avoidance, room identification and customized cleaning suggestions," he said.

According to MIT Technology Review, this type of data "were the sorts of scenes that internet-connected devices regularly capture and send back to the cloud—though usually with stricter storage and access controls." 

Even though this is the case, some of the photos were still shared online, with one of them showing a boy lying on his stomach across a hallway floor.

In a statement, iRobot confirmed that the images came from their "special development robots with hardware and software modifications that are not and never were present on iRobot consumer products for purchase" and that they were used by "paid collectors and employees" who agreed to be recorded for the training of the robots.

They explained that the models would show a sticker that read "recording in progress," and it was up to paid data collectors to "remove anything they deem sensitive from any space the robot operates in, including children."

iRobot disallowed the technology site to view their consent agreements or interview any of its paid collectors and employees about their understanding of the contract.

However, Angle told them that the company is "terminating its relationship with the service provider who leaked the images, is actively investigating the matter, and [is] taking measures to help prevent a similar leak by any service provider in the future."