‘Roomba took photos of a woman in the bathroom and appeared on social media’

roomba bathroom photos
A toilet, for illustration. © Canva

A Roomba robot vacuum cleaner took photos of a woman sitting on the toilet. These photos then ended up on Facebook. MIT Technology Review researched how this could happen.

Photos were taken by Roomba

In 2020, intimate photos, including a woman on a toilet, were shared on closed social media groups. Very disturbing, or not quite? It turned out to be photos taken with a Roomba. iRobot confirmed this to MIT Technology Review.

Part of program for AI capabilities

It wasn't a hack: the photos were taken and shared by a special Roomba robot vacuum cleaner with recording equipment. It was part of a program to develop AI capabilities for the new Roomba J7.

Reading tip: The Roomba J7 is one of iRobot's newest robot vacuum cleaners. At Vacuumtester.com we have extensively tested this robot vacuum cleaner. Check out our experiences in the Roomba J7+ review.
irobot roomba j7+ obstacles
The roomba J7 has a camera for detecting objects. © Vacuumtester.com

Roomba robot vacuum cleaners with this recording equipment were labeled with a bright green sticker that read “video recording in progress.” Participants were paid to participate in the program and would be informed that data – including video recordings – would be sent back to iRobot.

‘Startup Scale AI shared photos on social media'

iRobot in turn shared these recordings with a startup called Scale AI. Research showed that Venezuelan employees shared photos – including of the lady in the bathroom – on private groups on Facebook and Discord, among others. The purpose of this was to work together on their work.

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, told MIT Technology that it has ended its partnership with the company and is actively investigating this case. Measures are also being taken to prevent a similar leak in the future.

Robbert Tigchelaar
Robbert Tigchelaar

Robbert Tigchelaar has made testing vacuum cleaners his life's work. He has dedicated himself to conducting fully independent and valuable tests of vacuum cleaners to provide consumers with honest advice. His expertise in vacuum cleaners has been highlighted in The Washington Post and the Daily Express.

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