Friday, September 30, 2022

As it grows, Amazon increases its interest in consumers

From what you buy online, how you miss tasks, to monitoring your front door, Amazon seems to be everywhere.

And it doesn’t look like he wants to curb his reach anytime soon. In recent weeks, it has announced that it will invest billions of dollars in two huge acquisitions that, if approved, would expand its growing presence in consumers’ lives.

This time around, it’s targeting two areas: health care, through its $3.9 billion acquisition of primary care company One Medical, and home automation, where it expands its already significant presence with a $1.7 billion merger with iRobot. Planning to expand, the popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.

Not surprisingly, with a company known for its vast collection of consumer information, the two mergers have raised privacy concerns about how Amazon obtains data and what it does with it. The latest line from the Roomba, for example, uses sensors to map and remember a home’s floor plan.

“It’s getting the vast array of data that the Roomba collects about people’s homes,” said Ron Knox, an Amazon critic who works for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Antitrust Group. “Its clear intention, through all other products sold to consumers, is to be at home. (and) there are antitrust issues on top of privacy issues, because you’re buying market share.”

Amazon’s reach goes a long way. Some estimates suggest that the retail giant controls about 38% of the US e-commerce market, allowing it to collect granular data on the shopping preferences of millions of Americans and more around the world. Meanwhile, its Echo devices equipped with the Alexa voice assistant dominate the US smart speaker market, accounting for about 70% of sales, according to estimates from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Ring, which was acquired by Amazon in 2018 for $1 billion, monitors doors and helps police prosecute crimes, even when users don’t realize it. And in select Amazon and Whole Foods stores, the company is testing palm-scanning technology that lets consumers pay for items by storing biometric data in the cloud, prompting concerns about data breach risks, Something that Amazon has tried to do away with.

“We treat palm signatures like any other highly sensitive personal data and we protect it by using the best technical and physical security controls,” the company said on a website providing information about that technology.

Even consumers who actively avoid Amazon have little say in how their employers feed their computer networks, which Amazon, along with Google, through its AWS cloud computing service dominated over the years.

“It’s hard to think of any other organization that has Amazon as many touchpoints as one person,” said Ian Greenblatt, director of technology research at consumer research and data analytics firm JD Power. “It’s practically heavy, and it’s hard to detect.”

And Amazon’s goal, like any other company, is to grow. In recent years, it has acquired Wi-Fi startup Eero and partnered with construction company Lenar to offer tech homes. With iRobot, you’ll get one more piece in the ultimate smart home and, of course, more data.

According to the vacuum maker, customers can choose to store their iRobot devices on their home floor plans. But data privacy advocates worry that the merger is another way Amazon could obtain data to embed in its other devices or use to serve personalized ads to consumers.

In a statement, Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Lewandowski denied this was the firm’s target.

“We do not use house maps for targeted advertising and have no plans to do so,” Lewandowski said.

Whether this will ease concerns is another question, especially in light of the investigation into other Amazon devices. Earlier this year, a group of university researchers published a report concluding that voice data from Echo devices was being used to serve personalized ads to consumers, which the company has denied in the past. .

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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