Amazon’s proposed acquisition of iRobot is reportedly facing an EU investigation over potential privacy issues. The European Commission is said to be scrutinizing the deal due to concerns that Roomba robot vacuums, which are part of iRobot’s product line, could capture imagery that Amazon might use to gain a “competitive advantage” by combining it with Alexa data. This investigation follows a recent MIT Technology Review report that discovered photos taken by development versions of Roomba J7 vacuums had reached private Discord and Facebook groups, which raised privacy concerns.
In response to this, iRobot cut ties with Scale AI, a startup that relies on contractors to label data for AI training, due to leaked pictures. However, Amazon is said to be downplaying any privacy issues by noting that production Roombas only have rudimentary home mapping, and are not likely to create privacy concerns.
While a formal investigation by the EU is weeks away at best, Amazon is working cooperatively with regulators to address initial concerns. The EU has recently vowed to get tougher against Big Tech companies like Amazon when investigating alleged privacy abuses, which may be linked to this investigation of the iRobot deal. The EU is likely to focus on privacy as a major aspect of merger reviews, even if it is not directly related to this deal.