Collectives for the protection of personal data and experts in competition law agree that the announcement of the acquisition of iRobot by Amazon is very worrying. For them, this acquisition could be “the most dangerous and threatening in the company’s history”.
In an article published by Wired, several researchers and specialists have sounded the alarm over Amazon’s latest operation to integrate homes. The robotic vacuum cleaners and their systems of recognition and mapping of housing are added to the surveillance cameras and the microphones of the intelligent speakers that the Seattle firm is already marketing.
“People tend to think of Amazon as an online retail company, but, in reality, Amazon is a surveillance company. This is the core of its business model, and it is what determines its monopoly power and its profits”told Wired Evan Greer, director of the non-profit digital rights organization Fight for the Future.
“Mapping inside people’s homes seems like a natural extension of the surveillance reach that Amazon already has”, he added. In an article by Business Insiderit was pointed out that iRobot robot vacuum cleaners have memory to save up to ten different dwellings, and that some models are equipped with a low-resolution camera to avoid obstacles and complete the mapping.
In addition to the privacy issue, the various groups interviewed by Wired were concerned about the nature of the acquisition. Namely that iRobot is not a startup, but a well-established company in the market, which could have the effect of stifling competition. Recall that Monday morning, a rumor appeared about a possible arrival of DJI on the market. Today, iRobot’s competition is mainly Asian: Dreame, Roborock and Xiaomi.
Amazon accelerates its pace of acquisitions
In terms of budget, this is the fourth biggest acquisition for Amazon to date ($1.7 billion). Jeff Bezos’ company had only made five billion-plus buyouts through early 2021 before things picked up speed. We think in particular of Whole Foods, for 13.7 billion dollars (American organic giant), MGM studios for 8.45 billion dollars, One Medical for 3.9 billion dollars (a subscription for health).
If Amazon has less appetite than Google, Facebook or even Apple (the Gafams have swallowed more than 770 companies over the past 30 years), they are no less strategic and home automation is a market that will be worth 92 billion dollars in by 2029 according to a study published by Data Bridge Market Research.