Would you give
In a statement released on Friday, the e-commerce giant announced it was acquiring iRobot, the company best known as the maker of the popular
“Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive,” said SVP of Amazon Devices Dave Limp in the acquisition announcement. “Customers love iRobot products—and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.”
It’s not hard to imagine what an Amazon-owned Roomba would look like. For starters, the company could lower the barrier to entry by subsidizing the cost of the devices and even begin offering users subscription options to replace different Roomba parts. But it will most likely integrate Alexa, its voice-controlled A.I. assistant, into the robot vacuum.
However, privacy experts aren’t enamored with these possibilities. In fact, they are concerned about what a merger between the e-commerce giant and a company with home-mapping abilities could eventually mean for consumers’ data. Roomba vacuums have already been scrutinized over the data they collect. In order for these robot vacuums to work, the devices must map out your house. That data is then
“Federal regulators should not allow Amazon to suck up iRobot/Roomba,” said Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy organization
Amazon has increasingly been moving into the smart home product space. A report from market insights firm Strategy Analytics notes that Amazon’s Ring doorbell, another popular connected device,
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The Ring doorbell has already received its
“It’s obvious that Amazon is seeking to acquire its way to dominance in the Smart Home market and add yet another intrusive way to surveil their customers,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the
At this point, it’s unclear what Amazon has in mind for iRobot’s home mapping data. While consumers may be excited about the potential for Roomba to soon mimic Rosey the Robot from The Jetsons, they should be wary about the very real privacy concerns.
“The last thing Americans and the world need is Amazon vacuuming up even more of our personal information,” says Weissman. “This is not just about Amazon selling another device in its marketplace. It’s about the company gaining still more intimate details of our lives to gain unfair market advantage and sell us more stuff.”
So while the ability to summon Alexa to go clean your room may be enticing, maybe we should be practicing the command: “Alexa, stop collecting my data.”