Amazon.com deal for iRobot blasted by pro-privacy, labour groups

Amazon.com deal for iRobot blasted by pro-privacy, labour groups
The Amazon logo is seen outside its JFK8 distribution centre in Staten Island, New York, US, Nov 25, 2020. (File photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

WASHINGTON: A group of some 20 pro-privacy and worker organisations, including Public Citizen and Fight for the Future, urged US antitrust enforcers on Friday (Sep 9) to stop Amazon.com from buying iRobot, maker of the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba.

In their letter, the groups argued that the deal would strengthen Amazon.com’s already powerful position in the smart home devices.

“By selling the Roomba brand at or near a loss via the Prime subscription, the company can access more personal consumer data to buttress its anti-competitive advantages online,” the groups said in the letter.

This would hurt people concerned about privacy, as well as competitors who do not have access to the information, they argued.

The US$1.7 billion deal, which was announced in August, was the latest push by Amazon, which already owns Alexa and Ring, into the smart home devices. It is being reviewed by the US Federal Trade Commission, which has a separate antitrust probe under way of Amazon.

Amazon.com did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The groups said that non-whites could be hurt particularly hard by any loss of privacy related to the deal.

“Civil rights groups have been sounding the alarm on the dangers that Amazon’s network of smart home surveillance devices pose to black and brown communities, specifically those stemming from the mass of data collected by these devices,” they wrote.

Other signatories included International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Main Street Alliance, Demand Progress Education Fund,

Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Open Markets Institute.

Source: Reuters/ng