Amazon abandoned its $US1.4 billion acquisition of Roomba maker, iRobot, on Monday after regulators in the European Union threatened to block the deal. The deal’s implosion means the robot vacuums, and the company’s maps of 40 million floor plans across the globe, will not join the growing list of smart-home devices Amazon uses to collect information about you.
“We’re disappointed that Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot could not proceed,” said David Zapolsky, Amazon SVP and General Counsel in a press release. “This outcome will deny consumers faster innovation and more competitive prices, which we’re confident would have made their lives easier and more enjoyable.
Regulators in the EU sent the companies a list of concerns in November regarding how Amazon’s acquisition would stifle innovation in the robot vacuum cleaner marketplace. Privacy was not a concern brought by EU regulators, but consumer advocates have spoken out about how the Roomba acquisition would give Amazon another device to track you and dominate your home’s systems. That pressure from regulators seems to have blown up this deal, and it seems to be an inadvertent, but major, win for your home’s privacy. The company has been growing its presence in consumer homes with Amazon Alexa, Ring doorbells and cameras, and Amazon Fire TV Stick.
The Roomba is like a little spy in many ways, understanding the floor plan of your home, the furniture in your living room, what areas of the home get the most use, and many other data points. iRobot even noted in 2017 that selling its maps was a key part of a future acquisition. The Roomba would have been yet another Amazon device that adds to the company’s profile it can build on customers.
iRobot will lay off 350 employees, or 31 per cent of its workforce, as a result of this failed acquisition, the company said in a press release. CEO Colin Angle, who was a huge advocate for being acquired by Amazon, will step down as well.
Elizabeth Warren asked the FTC to block this deal in a 2022 letter, warning that acquiring Roomba could help Amazon lock customers into its ecosystem, making it difficult to leave. At the time, privacy advocates noted how Amazon wanted to use Roomba and other smart devices to learn “the most intimate details of our personal lives.”
Amazon already knows what the outside of your house looks like with Ring, it knows what you order online with Amazon Prime, it knows what questions are running through your mind with Alexa, and tons of other data about you. Roomba would have been one more detailed data point that peels back the barrier of privacy between you and Amazon.
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