Boston Globe: Amazon abandons plan to purchase Bedford-based iRobot; Roomba maker cuts 350 jobs
January 29, 2024
The proposed iRobot acquisition has also alarmed privacy advocates. Calli Schroeder, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, pointed out that Amazon has a roster of electronic products that collect household data, including Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras. “They already have a bunch of technology that is privy to very, very personal information, because it’s focused on our home,” she said.
Schroeder believes Amazon wanted iRobot because its advanced Roomba machines use cameras to create maps of the rooms it cleans. This would give Amazon even deeper insights into the habits of its customers. But it could also violate users’ privacy, if the collected data was stolen or abused. For instance, MIT Technology Review reported in 2022 that images captured by prototype Roomba machines wound up on Facebook after iRobot shared them with a business partner that helped train the Roomba’s artificial intelligence software.
Schroeder celebrated the collapse of the deal on Monday. “It looks like the privacy side won,” she said. “We’ve got to take those victories anywhere we can get them.”
Read more here.