Consumer advocates blast Amazon’s ‘risky’ bid to buy Roomba maker

Amazon on Friday expanded its ability to connect and gather information about consumers’ homes and private lives, announcing its plan to buy iRobot Corp., which makes the popular Roomba vacuum cleaner.

“Jeff Bezos said Amazon wants to make its way to dominance. By snatching Roomba and pairing it with its massive monopoly power fueled by its Prime system, it will do just that.”

The e-commerce giant announced it would acquire the company for $1.7 billion in an all-cash deal, and took control of one of its rivals after Amazon last year launched Astro, its “smart” home assistant, which can move between rooms in a house and recognize faces.

Robert Wiseman, president of consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, said the purchase was “not just about Amazon selling another device in its market.”

“It’s about the company acquiring more intimate details of our lives to gain an unfair market advantage and sell us more stuff,” he said.

Like other Amazon home products including Alexa and Ring, Roomba can connect to smartphones and WiFi. The vacuum cleaner creates a map of users’ homes so you can see where the furniture and doors are while it’s cleaning the floors.

“With Ring, Alexa, and now Roomba, Amazon tracks everything that happens inside your home (even who visits you),” said economist and entrepreneur Raul Pal.

In 2017, iRobot CEO Colin Angle . said Reuters That his company was considering selling data collected from customers’ homes by Roombas to companies including Amazon and Google, helping companies discern what and how products are being marketed.

“Interior maps of your home can tell us a lot about a person,” said Jamie Williams, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. BuzzFeed in time. “For example, how you design your living room can reveal whether watching TV is an essential part of your life. It can reveal whether you have pets. And how often you rearrange furniture. This information wouldn’t be of much value to advertisers if you didn’t It reveals very sensitive information about the house from the inside.”

The iRobot purchase comes two weeks after Amazon announced its acquisition of One Medical, a private healthcare company, for $3.9 billion. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among the deal’s critics, warning that Amazon’s foray into Medicare would not “provide quality care for everyone in a cost-effective manner” but would only make Amazon founder Jeff Bezos “even richer.”

Ron Knox, a researcher at the Local Self-Reliance Institute, He said Amazon’s purchase of iRobot “may be the most dangerous and threatening acquisition in the company’s history,” adding that it’s “bad even if you’re only concerned about whether the deal will hurt competition.”

“Jeff Bezos said Amazon wants to make its way to dominance,” said Jeff Bezos. He said Knox. “By snatching the Roomba and pairing it with its massive monopoly power fueled by its own Prime system, it will do just that.”

“From a privacy perspective, this is a nightmare,” he said added. “From an antitrust perspective, this is one of the most powerful data collectors on Earth that gets another huge and intrusive set of data. This is how privacy and antitrust concerns go hand in hand.”

Weisman said federal regulators “should not allow Amazon to suck up the iRobot/Roomba.”

“The last thing America and the world need is for Amazon to suck up more of our personal information,” he said. “Amazon should not be allowed to leverage its strength in the retail market to expand market share of connected home appliances.”

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