Is Your Robot Vacuum Gathering Dirt About You?

Someone passed a joke by me today that tried to make light of the fact (pun intended) that “smart” electronics like phones and televisions might be collecting your private conversations.

The joke was to not worry since “your vacuum cleaner has been gathering dirt on you for years”.

My humorless response was two-fold.

1) Evil maid is a long-standing canon of threat modeling. Of course any “cleaning” device you allow should be in the category of services that could abuse narrowly-defined access grants to violate confidentiality. Pro-tip: evil maid does NOT mean physical access only.

2) Laser-guided cleaning robot vacuums have long been known to be a vector for acoustic monitoring, as demonstrated two years ago. Any device with light detection and ranging (Lidar) sensors could be manipulated for sound collection, despite having no microphone. Their “LidarPhone” used AI to match and identify parts of speech (numbers) with 90% accuracy. It also identified previous speech (television shows) from a minute’s worth of recording with more than 90% accuracy.

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