Once nothing more than an online marketplace for anything and everything, Amazon grew into a massive corporation that expanded far beyond offering two-day shipping. Just within the last few years, Amazon moved into the movie industry, pulling in top talent from Hollywood that included Chris Pratt and Josh Brolin. Not only that, but CEO Jeff Bezos also explored space. But always looking to grow, expand, and dominate, on Friday, Amazon announced they purchased iRobot Corp. for a whopping $1.7 billion. The all-cash deal gave the company full control over its popular Roomba vacuum. And according to some, the move could be dangerous for consumers.
Amazon once released their own smart vacuum called the Astro, which was promoted for being able to recognize faces and move between rooms without interference. Still, deeming the new purchase dangerous, Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, noted that the sale had more to do with consumer’s intimate details than another product on their site. “It’s about the company gaining still more intimate details of our lives to gain unfair market advantage and sell us more stuff.”
Given the capabilities behind the Roomba, Amazon’s newest product works much like Alexa and Ring. Connecting to both WiFi and smartphones, Roomba can help create a map of a person’s home and feed that information back to Amazon. The technology is so advanced, it can alert when furniture has been moved. Economist Raoul Pal explained, “With Ring, Alexa and now Roomba, Amazon tracks EVERYTHING that happens inside your house (even who visits you)”
Back in 2017, the CEO of iRobot, Colin Angle, hinted at a potential partnership with Google and Amazon, allowing them to purchase data from iRobot to help them market specific products to certain consumers. Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jamie Williams warned, “Maps of the inside of your home can tell a lot about a person. For instance, how you lay out your living room could disclose whether watching TV is a central part of your life. It could disclose whether you have pets. How often you rearrange furniture. This information wouldn’t be worth a lot to advertisers if it didn’t reveal highly sensitive information about the inside of the home.”
Another expert, Rob Knox, who works with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, explained the purchase “may be the most dangerous, threatening acquisition in the company’s history.” He added it “is bad EVEN IF you’re only worried about whether the deal will hurt competition. Jeff Bezos has said that Amazon wants to buy its way to dominance. By snatching up Roomba and pairing it with its vast monopoly power fueled by its Prime system, it would do just that.”