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Amazon will soon have maps of millions of homes

A Roomba vacuum by iRobot. (Kārlis Dambrāns/Wikimedia)
August 09, 2022

Amazon has entered into an agreement to acquire iRobot, the maker of Roomba vacuum cleaners, for $1.7 billion, according to a press release published by Amazon on Friday. Once the merger goes through, Amazon will acquire the maps of Roomba owners’ homes. 

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Dave Limp, Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices, said in a statement that the merger is about inventing new ways to make “customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.”

“We know that saving time matters, and chores take precious time that can be better spent doing something that customers love,” Limp said. “Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive—from cleaning when and where customers want while avoiding common obstacles in the home, to automatically emptying the collection bin. 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.”

However, the purchase also comes with new privacy concerns for consumers. Over the years, Amazon has acquired the Ring video doorbell company and the Wi-Fi router-maker Eero. The tech giant has also developed its own products, like the AI assistant Alexa. Each product provides Amazon with a new type of home surveillance, and the addition of Roomba vacuums will give Amazon an even more detailed look inside people’s homes. 

“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,” said Evan Greer, director of nonprofit digital rights organization, as reported by Wired. “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.”

While Amazon refused to answer questions on how it would use iRobot data, Alexandra Miller, a company spokesperson, said in a statement that “customer trust” is important. 

“Customer trust is something we have worked hard to earn—and work hard to keep—every day,” the statement read.

Last year, an Amazon customer reportedly requested all of the data that the tech giant has collected on her through her home devices, including smart speakers like the Dot and Echo, and was stunned to see Amazon had compiled thousands of voice recordings, location data and more.

The woman then says that she downloaded a zip file that she received from the tech giant, which had 21 files featuring labels like “Audio and Transcription,” “Location,” “Communication – Messages,” “Shopping” and “Video.”