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Amazon expanding its surveillance capabilities: $1.7 billion iRobot deal includes interior maps of millions of homes

On Friday, iRobot accepted Amazon’s $1.7 billion offer to purchase the robot vacuum company. If the deal goes through, pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the technology giant will receive a plethora of personal data, including the floor plans of millions of users’ homes.

In 2021, iRobot reported that over 40 million Roombas had been sold worldwide since the release of its first model in 2002. The small automated vacuum uses sensors to map out each room in a home. If the Federal Trade Commission approves the deal, this stored personal data will be handed over to Amazon. The company has yet to comment on how it plans to use this data.

The purchase of iRobot is just the latest deal initiated by Amazon. In 2018, it purchased Ring, a video doorbell company. That same year, Amazon acquired the wifi router manufacturer Eero. Amazon recently offered One Medical, a health care clinic chain, an all-cash $3.49 billion deal. The purchase would provide Amazon with the health data from 188 offices around the United States.

Last year, Amazon released its own home mapping robot, Astro. The household robot syncs to Alexa and is advertised as a home monitoring system. Currently, Astro is an invite-only purchase and not available to the general public.

While Roomba vacuums perform a similar function, consumers are more skeptical about privacy and data harvesting concerns related to Amazon’s Astro. Amazon has already received backlash after giving Ring footage to law enforcement without permission from the owners.

Since January 2022, law enforcement worldwide has submitted around 30,000 subpoenas, search warrants, and court order requests to Amazon for user data. The tech company admitted to providing authorities with Ring footage without a warrant.

Last month, Politico reported that Ring is partnered with 2,161 police departments across the country to utilize a video-sharing app, Neighbors. The app allows users to upload their Ring footage for authorities to access with their permission.

Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit digital rights organization Fight for the Future, stated that Amazon wants to “have its hands everywhere,” reported WIRED. “People tend to think of Amazon as an online seller company, but really Amazon is a surveillance company. That is the core of its business model, and that’s what drives its monopoly power and profit.”

In response to consumer concerns about data privacy, Amazon spokesperson Alexandra Miller stated, “Customer trust is something we have worked hard to earn–and work hard to keep–every day.”

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