Activists Urge Federal Government To Block Amazon’s Purchase Of iRobot

Several privacy advocates and workers’ organizations implored U.S. antitrust officials to step in and block Amazon’s deal to purchase iRobot Corporation.

The open letter was sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In it, the groups state their objections on the grounds that the deal will give the online retailer far too much control of the market for smart-home systems.

iRobot is the manufacturer of the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba.

The signatories believe that Amazon will then access more private consumer data and increase the strength of its “anti-competitive advantages.”

The letter pulls no punches. It asserts that Amazon should not be allowed to “absorb a competing smart-home device business” that will give the retailer access to even more incredibly detailed consumer data.

Rather than through “organic growth,” the groups believe that Amazon is attempting to weaken competition through acquisition.

Amazon already owns Alexa and Ring, and the $1.7 billion dollar deal for iRobot announced in August would give it a further foothold into controlling smart-home devices.

The open letter noted that already a third of U.S. homes have at least one Amazon device. It told the regulatory commission that “there is no more private space than the home,” but now Amazon stands to gain even more access to details not available through any other means.

The federal government has taken notice of some of the possible privacy invasions through Amazon technology. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) recently asked the company to change its Ring technology so that the doorbells will not record audio by default.

The FTC has a separate antitrust investigation of Amazon in the works concerning the signup and cancellation procedures for Amazon Prime. It is also reviewing the deal for iRobot, and the review reportedly covers whether the purchase will “illegally increase Amazon’s market share.”

Free enterprise is the bedrock of the U.S. economic system, but it is important for those who are able to closely monitor how big tech companies glean information from consumers. That responsibility is doubly important when that data is harvested from private homes.