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Hi vacuum owners and other IoT experts.

I am looking for easy and reasonable measures to manage privacy issues with robot vacuums. I know that some models can be controlled with Valetudo and similar hacks. However, these approaches limit the product options to compatible ones, can be tedious, and even risky considering possible failures of expensive robot vacuums.

Let's assume that I find a model that can work fairly independently and used by direct physical interactions with the robot vacuum after the installation and initial settings are done. Instead of hacking, would it be a viable method to run the control app from a desktop computer with Android emulation, for example by using BlueStacks, and connect the app to the robot vacuum only when adjustments are needed? The good thing about this approach is that once the Android emulator is turned off, also the control app stays offline (assuming that the BlueStacks truly stays inactive?). Second, the control app can be separated from the actual private phone that is in use all the time. Also, once the desktop computer and Android-emulated control app in it are disconnected from the Wi-Fi of the robot vacuum, the robot is left without any wireless connection, or could they access the internet by some other sneaky ways? And if some firmware updates are needed, a temporary-Wi-Fi network can be made for the job, which is erased afterwards. The BlueStacks requires your Google account, but I think the common temporary environment with the control app does not matter much, because the Android emulation would be offline most of the time.

So, does the vacuum robots work without constant internet connection in general, and does this approach seem viable? And if someone would like to try using the BlueStacks for running and connecting the control app to the robot vacuum, it would be helpful for the community of security-aware robot vacuum cleaners. I don't currently own any robot vacuums, I am considering buying one.

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    which privacy issue are you trying to address?
    – jsotola
    Commented Apr 21 at 16:32
  • @jsotola like photos, videos, or audio recordings leaking out from the private spaces when I am not aware. I would also like to avoid eavesdropping of my internet activity. To avoid burden due to excessive attempts of protection, I am willing to let something out while installing or adjusting the robot vacuum. However, I don't want to leave or "forgot" the device to stay constantly online for longer periods.
    – Imsa
    Commented Apr 21 at 20:11
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    It would be great if you could add more of the specific concerns to the question itself.
    – Helmar
    Commented Apr 24 at 9:28

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If you are really worried about it then buy an older/earlier model of a recognised brand. I have an iRobot that has no cameras or Wifi capability.

If you don't get a red dragon brand, then you can be sure that the manufacturers have no intention of spying on you.

  1. The cameras (if it has any) are pointed down, not up at your face.
  2. I am not aware of any of them recording video. Even if they are, they are at the floor level.
  3. If they are responding to voice messages, they have a key word to trigger them into recording the next sentence.
  4. While it is true that the recordings are sent to a server for processing, they are eventually deleted. I attended a seminar recently, where the host was pushing for some legislation (in Europe) for mandatory deletion of these after a set time.
  5. Even if they were spying on you, what are they really going to learn?
  6. If you really want to be sure, block their internet access on your router after you have set them up.

I take the realistic approach that all major companies (mainly American) are busy recording information on you. The best you can do is to spread the love. That is, don't give it all to one organisation.

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  • #6 is a key item for all IoT devices.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 24 at 17:18

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