MIT Technology Report: “…While the images shared with us did not come from iRobot customers, consumers regularly consent to having our data monitored to varying degrees on devices ranging from iPhones to washing machines. It’s a practice that has only grown more common over the past decade, as data-hungry artificial intelligence has been increasingly integrated into a whole new array of products and services. Much of this technology is based on machine learning, a technique that uses large troves of data—including our voices, faces, homes, and other personal information—to train algorithms to recognize patterns. The most useful data sets are the most realistic, making data sourced from real environments, like homes, especially valuable. Often, we opt in simply by using the product, as noted in privacy policies with vague language that gives companies broad discretion in how they disseminate and analyze consumer information. The data collected by robot vacuums can be particularly invasive. They have “powerful hardware, powerful sensors,” says Dennis Giese, a PhD candidate at Northeastern University who studies the security vulnerabilities of Internet of Things devices, including robot vacuums. “And they can drive around in your home—and you have no way to control that.” This is especially true, he adds, of devices with advanced cameras and artificial intelligence—like iRobot’s Roomba J7 series. This data is then used to build smarter robots whose purpose may one day go far beyond vacuuming. But to make these data sets useful for machine learning, individual humans must first view, categorize, label, and otherwise add context to each bit of data. This process is called data annotation… iRobot has said that it has shared over 2 million images with Scale AI and an unknown quantity more with other data annotation platforms; the company has confirmed that Scale is just one of the data annotators it has used…”
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