MIT’s article on how images of a woman recorded in the bathroom by the Roomba robot vacuum ended up on Facebook has been the subject of controversy.
A new generation Roomba robot vacuum with camera and sensors recorded a woman toileting in 2020 (among many other cases) and the images spread all over the world via social media, primarily Facebook. So how did this happen?
The truth is, it’s not about the robot broadcasting the footage, it’s about questioning artificial intelligence training systems and above all everyone’s privacy. According to the news in MIT Tech Review, the images were not taken by a person, but by the development versions of the Roomba J7 robot vacuum produced by the iRobot company.
iRobot: The Problem isn’t Artificial Intelligence, It’s the Human Factor
This data was then sent to Scale AI, a startup that hires employees from around the world to tag audio, photo and video data used to train AI. From there it spread everywhere.
MIT Technology Review has captured 15 screenshots of these exclusive photos that have been posted to social media groups. One shot in particular shows a young woman wearing a lavender T-shirt sitting on the toilet.
In another image, a boy who appears to be eight or nine years old, whose face is clearly visible, lies face down on the floor of the hallway. Other shots show rooms from homes around the world, some with people and others with a dog.
iRobot, which was recently purchased by Amazon for $ 1.7 billion, confirmed in its statements on the subject that these images were taken by Roomba in 2020. According to the company, the problem was not with the Robot itself, but with the human factor responsible for training the algorithm used for smart vacuums.
An Investigation Has Been Launched Into the Leak
According to iRobot, the devices were labeled with a bright green label that read “video recording in progress” and had been handed out to employees for testing. In other words, according to the company’s statements, anyone whose photos or videos were exposed allowed their Roomba to watch them.
According to iRobot, this should never have happened. The company has terminated its relationship with the service provider that leaked the footage, is actively investigating the matter and is taking steps to help prevent a similar leak by any service provider in the future, reports MIT Tech Review.