There are now many vacuum robots with a camera – actually clever, because it helps the devices with navigation. It becomes uncomfortable when particularly unfavorable images end up on the internet.

A camera in a vacuum robot has many advantages. Devices like the Roborock S7 Maxv Ultra (tested here) navigate more safely, recognize all kinds of obstacles and also offer the opportunity to take a look inside your own four walls from afar. But the constant Internet connection in combination with a camera can become a problem – IT experts warn against it (learn more here).

A specific case from Venezuela now shows that a robot with a camera should not be given the chance to take unfavorable pictures. As “Technology Review” reports, an iRobot Roomba J7 snapped particularly spicy pictures about two years ago.

Visit to the toilet

The robot was a special developer version that iRobot used to train the artificial intelligence of the household helpers with the help of the start-up Scale AI. To do this, he sent recordings to the specialists – with the knowledge of the users – so that they could be evaluated confidentially.

Confidence in the project was evidently huge, because in one specific case, a tester didn’t seem to mind that the robot cleaned the bathroom while she was sitting on the toilet. The robot must have recognized and reported the person as an obstacle, because the recording went to Scale AI for evaluation. The photo did not stay there, but was later found in private Facebook groups. “Technology Review” received around 15 such images as part of the research, and the prepared robots are said to have sent several million images to Scale AI – many of them with the usual obstacles such as shoes and cupboards, others with pets and children.

The manufacturer cannot be blamed in this specific case. Firstly, the robots were not retail models that were freely available in stores, and secondly, all testers had agreed that the devices would take pictures and send them. A large sticker is said to have been on the suction cups themselves, which said “recording is in progress”.

A spokesman for the company said that strict data protection agreements had been concluded with the companies commissioned to analyze the images. The fact that the recordings got online is a clear violation of the conditions and will be punished accordingly. The business relationship has now ended and the safety precautions with other contractual partners have been tightened again, it is said.

People trust technology way too much

“Technology Review” takes this specific case as an opportunity to again warn against too much trust in technology – and thus supports the concerns of other experts. Especially when moderating or evaluating data, according to the magazine, there is always a person at the other end – usually in a windowless room, apathetically clicking.

Jessica Vitak, an information scientist and professor at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, considers the general use of technology to be problematic. “It’s a lot easier for me to accept a cute little vacuum cleaner moving around my space than someone walking around my house with a camera,” she exemplified to Technology Review.

The warning by no means applies only to vacuum robots. Recently, the smart home manufacturer Eufy was also criticized when it was found that images from the security cameras do not find their way onto the customer’s smartphone without external storage locations. There was no data leak, but that also damaged confidence in the technology.

To put it simply: where there is a camera, someone could be watching – very simple. The general rule is: keep smart cameras with an Internet connection away from sensitive areas, temporarily deactivate the devices or cover the cameras of devices that they rarely use anyway.