Tag: scandals

Mapping capabilities of Roomba raises concern

Roombas are mapping people’s homes while cleaning the floor.

Clean-MapRoombas, the small robotic vacuum cleaners, were made to help people reduce the amount of housework. However, iRobot, the company that makes Roomba, made their two latest models, 960 and 980, able to map out the floor plan of the home. Most people thought this was so the robot could function around the rooms better, so it would bump into fewer objects and accomplish a better vacuuming job.

However, Colin Angel, who is the CEO of iRobot, said that the company has access to all of the maps and plans on selling the maps to other companies, such as Google and Amazon. iRobot later came out saying that their CEO misspoke, and that the company has no intention of “selling” the mapping data. They also said that they are wanting to provide the data, with the consent of customers, to other companies to help improve smart homes and devices.

What may be true is that they are not going to “sell” the data. But how are they going to get the consent of customers? Will it be in the long agreement that everyone has to approve before using? If so, hardly any body reads that, including me, and then the company has “your permission” to give out the mapping data of your house.

iRobot has not said specifically how they are going to ask permission. To me, that seems a little sketchy. Also, why does iRobot need to map out your house, store it in their data base, and “give” it to other companies to help smart technology? To me, that does not make a lot of sense. I do not understand how a map of someone’s home could possibly help companies improve smart technology.

Another issue I have with this is how do we know who the company is giving the information to? Will the company give the data to the government? iRobot saying they are wanting the information to help smart technology could just be a ploy for helping the government spy on us.

Will this mapping data just end up as more ads for us? Everyone already knows that roombaspycookies remember what you search and then puts ads on Facebook and other social media sites that go hand in hand with what was searched. Will furniture companies be able to gain the mapping data, and then contact customers in order to try to upgrade furniture?

Other questions that are valid are what happens if iRobot’s data base gets hacked? Then that hacker has maps of many houses. Will that hacker then use it to rob a house?

On a positive note, could this data help people if their house burns down? Would finance companies give them more money if they could get the mapping layout for that house? What if that house is sold? Will iRobot delete the map of that house if the new owners don’t want to consent?

Because Roomba maps out each room, does the company know what room your children sleep in by the room where it bumps into the most toys?

What iRobot is doing could be a catastrophe and could hurt individuals.  Not to mention that the house map storing feature has “sketchy” written all over it, especially since it sounds like the Roomba models 960 and 980 have already been mapping customer’s houses without notice or the permission of customers.

Is iRobot making a robot that is helping with house chores, or is it a robot to spy on us? Personally, I believe it’s more of a spying tool, a way for the company to make more money for themselves, and they are just telling us that it will help with the smart home technology.

Universities suffer from waning meritocracy

Ambitious students are forced to cope with the reality that the prestigious colleges and universities they aspire to attend don’t handle admissions fairly in light of the largest prosecuted college admissions scandal in United States history.

college scandal ROSEANNE CHAO-01The FBI investigation has resulted in dozens of people being charged, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. In the actresses’ efforts to buy their children’s way into university, they were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Also among the accused are business executives and a fashion designer, all people who can afford to bribe administrators, counselors and coaches through the guise of donation. Rich parents can give their children the opportunity to achieve the most prestigious degrees, while the top universities can build things such as new libraries without digging into their coffers. The investigation revealed that this influx of unearned admissions has been going on since 2011, and perhaps longer.

With anecdotal accounts of shifty admissions practices springing up through the years, and the fact that most attendees of Ivy League universities hail from rich families, the scandal is more disheartening than shocking. Usually, Ivy League universities admit less than 10 percent of applicants, meaning good students full of potential who have worked hard their entire lives to maintain a high grade-point average can be edged out by students who bring millions of dollars in donations with them. Currently, no universities have been charged, but coaches have allegedly given students fabricated histories in athletics to make them more appealing as applicants.

Many students still believe in the American dream, the idea that hard work and perseverance can lead to prosperity. But opportunity is not fairly distributed. Students who are not affluent can’t afford to wait for years hoping they make the cut one lucky semester, regardless if they barely lost their spot to an underperforming library builder. While colleges are commonly understood to be places of academia, brilliant applicants who aren’t edged out by corruption may still be rejected in favor of athletes.

Surveys have shown that most Americans believe in meritocracy, the idea that opportunity and success should be afforded based on a person’s merit. Most people 1200px-Seal_of_the_Federal_Bureau_of_Investigationbelieve in the logic that people are entitled to what they fairly earn and shouldn’t have their opportunities usurped by a less competent person. If universities put an end to underhanded admission practices, they still wouldn’t be able to have a system based purely on meritocracy because of the prevalence of affirmative action.

Affirmative action started in 1961 as an executive order to prohibit institutionalized discrimination. But it quickly turned into a tool for universities to maintain admissions quotas for gender and race. Universities have strived to meet these quotas, whether or not each race or gender offers enough candidates who meet its academic standards. Schools such as Harvard have been sued over admitting students for diversity, not only accepting the best applicants of that race, but a mix of elite and lesser students.

Not accepting only the best ensures the university is not forcing all applicants of the same race to compete with each other, but can lead to genius students being turned away. Harvard claims it does not enforce quotas, but a lawsuit against them threatens to remove race from the application process so students may be judged solely on merit.

Diversity and donations that improve the quality of life on campus are great things, but both have been attained through dubious means by universities for decades. Students should strive to seize their potential and never forget that merit does still carry weight in admissions. But with the astronomical number of applicants Ivy League universities receive each year and the shifty admissions practices that have been brought to light, students should be prepared for rejection and always have a backup plan. Keeping an open mind about which university to attend and improving grades are a student’s best hope of getting a quality education.