Online shopping giant Amazon has come to terms on a 1.7 billion dollar deal to acquire iRobot, a company that make home cleaning appliances.
With the acquisition of iRobot, the company that sells a widely used line of Roomba automated vacuums, Amazon has gained access to maps of the inside of million of homes and other buildings.
Roombas, vacuums that clean without the need for a human to be present, use sensors to create a map of the home which they are designated to clean. They are then able to store that data to clean more efficiently.
This deal adds to Amazon’s grasp on the smart home market, as it joins their Ring doorbells, Alexa AI assistant, and Wi-Fi router that have given the company a window into most of our lives.
With their recent acquisition of Eero, their line of Wi-Fi routers, Amazon already can see its users internet use, even when the user is not on a website owned by Amazon.
Though Amazon has this capability, for their part, Amazon claimed to deny itself access to this information, and left Eero as a separate entity that is simply owned by Amazon.
Alexandra Miller, a spokesperson for Amazon says that the company has been, and will continue to be, cautious in their uses of customer data.
“Customer trust is something we have worked hard to earn, and work hard to keep, every day,” she emphasized.
In the past, Amazon has come under fire for willingly sharing Ring doorbell footage with law enforcement without a warrant. Some experts, like Evan Greer of the nonprofit digital rights organization Fight for the Future have shared concerns with this practice.
He also says that while “people tend to think of Amazon as an online seller company… Amazon is a surveillance company.
That is the core of its business model, and that’s what drives its monopoly power and profit.
Amazon wants to have its hands everywhere, and acquiring a company that’s essentially built on mapping the inside of people’s homes seems like a natural extension of the surveillance reach that Amazon already has.”
According to the BBC, every time that a Ring doorbell is pressed, or any action is taken in the corresponding app, Amazon logs that information to save it for later reference.
This offers insight into when a customer is at home, or if they have been away for an extended period of time.
Ring also allows Amazon to have glimpse into the social life of an individual as it will be alerted as friend and acquaintances come and go from a residence.
An article on this subject from Wired states that this deal is far from a forgone conclusion, at it could face review from the Federal Trade Commission.
Amazon has become a focus of antitrust movements recently, so this major move to grab a stronger hold on the smart home market may not be seen favorably by regulators.
Whether the deal goes through or not, it is more important to understand the ways that large corporations are able to track out movements and habits and by whom that data may be used.
As this story continues to gain traction, readers should be cautious with their own data, and only share it with entities which can be trusted.