Beware the Vac Bot


The iRobot Corp. has recently stopped building bomb-disposal robots for the U.S. military in order to focus on the consumer market for its Roomba™ robot vacuum cleaner. For roughly U.S.$800, this Frisbee-shaped gizmo will meander around your house sweeping up—wait for it—your data. You think it's sucking up crumbs and cat hair, when in fact it's mapping the rooms in your house, presumably for sale to the highest bidder. Privacy advocates have called vac bots "creepy" and are urging manufacturers to take an "ethical approach" to their development. Such anxiety is misplaced. A trifling loss of privacy is a small price to pay for the timeless dream of avoiding housework.