The Best Robot Vacuums

If you’re concerned about the privacy implications of smart mapping (more on that below), you can still use any of them without connecting them to the internet—but none of the interactive mapping features will work.

Wi-Fi, smart home, security, and privacy: These controls can be useful for starting and stopping the bot while you’re out of the house. Apps also make it easy to set a cleaning schedule, keep track of when you need to replace parts, or adjust certain cleaning settings. Bots without Wi-Fi usually come with a physical remote control instead, which is still handy.

However, like anything involving wireless networks, nobody can guarantee that your robot’s Wi-Fi will work smoothly, and that’s always a pain to troubleshoot.

Plus, all robots have the ability to collect at least some data about your floor plan (the mapping bots can collect quite a bit), and if they connect to Wi-Fi, there’s some chance that the data falls into unwanted hands. For example, a security firm figured out[4] how to look directly through the camera on certain LG robot vacuums. And a minor panic broke out after a Reuters article[5] misreported that iRobot had plans to sell owner data to third parties.

We sent a privacy and security questionnaire to the brands that make our picks and have compiled the key portions of their responses in the table below. In general, the owner data isn’t that sensitive, and the mapping data is unsophisticated for now. We’re more uneasy about what companies may do with collected information in the future, like selling it to third parties. The makers of our current picks don’t sell data for now, but privacy policies are always changing. Otherwise, our main concern is that the little amount of sensitive data on a vacuum, like your Wi-Fi network password, is stored securely (if it’s stored online at all), in case there are data leaks or breaches in the future. If you’re annoyed or creeped out by the whole thing, you can either buy a non-connected bot or just never set up the Wi-Fi—these bots all still clean your house automatically even if you don’t connect them to the internet. But you won’t be able to use interactive mapping features without an internet connection. If you decide to sell or give away a Wi-Fi robot, be sure to factory reset it to remove Wi-Fi credentials.

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