Amazon wants to fill your home with its products. The company sells a voice-activated smart speaker that can tell you the weather (Echo), a security camera that can show you who is stealing your packages (Call), and a media streamer to play movies and show on your television (Fire TV). It also sells dozens of other devices – plugs, thermostats, lights, vacuum cleaners, even microwaves – with its chatty voice assistant Alexa stuffed inside. Amazon now looks to own your smart home base also: the router.
On Monday, Amazon announced the acquisition of Eero, a company that makes a router system whose multiple devices can be used to cover hard to reach Wi-Fi dead zones. Buying a home network infrastructure company may sound like a boring move ̵
Routers can capture tell data. A router knows the number and marks of the connected devices you have at home, and it knows when you are at home using these devices. A 2017 Eero data report with anonymized data collected from "hundreds of thousands" of the routers shows a glimpse of what information can be retrieved: Charts showing times of day users are most active (Sunday 9pm and 10pm), and a list of the 40 best devices connected to the Eero networks (topped by iPhone, iPad and Sonos speakers). If you have more than three Eeros, it can deduce that you also have a large house.
"A device can own all the devices in your home. It can form a very complete profile for you as a person in both the physical and digital world, and this is extremely from a privacy perspective," says Sydney Li, staff of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Routers have access to the browsing history while they are connected to the network, but the data is limited.When you visit a secured site beginning with HTTPS the router can mostly see the domain of the site (for example, google.com), but not its content, like what you were looking for. "Your router can also link the network activity and web traffic it sees with a particular device ID. It is possible to change / falsify this ID (MAC address) if you know how, but most will not, "EFF's Li said.
At any rate, Amazon can use this data to better understand its consumers and keep eye on its competitors An Amazon spokesman said the company will provide Eero's existing customer data as part of the acquisition, which it will use to offer and improve its services.
Amazon has used data gathered from its marketplace to surrender A competitive advantage before. The company, which can trace buyers' crawling and buying behaviors, sells its own product brand through private labels such as AmazonBasics at low prices, as some third-party sellers say, is crushing its business on the platform.
Earlier, Eero has appointed Its position as an independent hardware company as a benefit to consumers. "Our goal is to create high quality hardware and software. We are not in the business of selling ads or customer data, and we do not monitor internet traffic, "the company wrote in March 2017 blog post. It may change soon. Amazon is in the business that sells ads, on and off its site In fact, advertising is the fastest growing segment, with the company earning $ 3.4 billion in advertising sales in the last quarter of 2018, an increase of 95% last year, and it's hard to imagine that Amazon offers suggestions for newer connected TV models on its website, if it sees, through Eero, that you are using a crazy elder.
Amazon's acquisition of Eero also shows how it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to escape the Big Tech's grip. Amazon can already see what most people do online Because Amazon Web Services offers cloud hosting services for almost half the internet, including Netflix and Pinterest. Eero can give it a more complete picture.
The internet giants want to control everything around you, and gather as much personal information as technically possible along the way – and it's a strategy that has worked very well for them. Our digital life has been so controlled by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon that are trying to escape their data collection, is almost impossible. Gizmodo reporter Kashmir Hill recently tried to do it with great effort. "In the end, I learn that it is simply not an option to block Amazon permanently," says Hill of Amazon Web Services dominance.
For those who want to avoid Amazon or Eero, the options do not look promising either. Internet service providers often provide routers to their customers who track analytics data and sell browsing history and usage history to advertisers.
Google gathers device information through its own network router, Google Wi-Fi. Connected device, signal strength, and data usage information are passed on to Google, but the company specifically notices its privacy page that the devices "do not track the sites you visit or collect the content of traffic on your network." That's because it doesn't need the router data. Google already collects much of this information through its other products, such as Chrome, Android, Gmail, and the ad network.
Reply to current Eero customer's applies about their privacy, Eero's support Twitter account tweeted, "Eero and Amazon take customer's privacy very seriously and we will continue to Eero does not track the customer's internet activity, and this policy will not change with the acquisition. "An Amazon spokesman said the company has no plans to change Eero's policy at this time, but failed to change it policy in the future.
The acquisition also presents antitrust problems, according to Bannan: "There has not been much overview of companies that buy startup because they are not seen as competitors. But this is a failure in the technology industry because it allows the giants to gain competition while it is still nascent and to acquire multiple user data by combining boot products with their own. "
Beyond accessing multiple users & # 39; data acquisition Eero is a practical feature that considers Amazon's smart home ambitions. Eero will help tech giant get as much Amazon branded and Alexa-driven hardware as possible in your home, and it can simplify installation, which is one of the biggest pain points for both tech-savvy and non-technical consumers. It will ensure that a home network has a good enough connection for all the devices to run reliably as well. Amazon can also theoretically integrate Eero technology into Echo devices and turn every smart speaker into a Wi-Fi network key.
Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, said so much in yesterday's press release: "We are incredibly impressed with the Eero team and how quickly they found out a Wi-Fi solution that allows connected devices to work. have a shared vision that the smart home experience can be even easier, and we are committed to continuing to renew on behalf of the customers. "
An Amazon spokesman said the deal hasn't closed yet, and integration calls would not & # 39; Happen until the acquisition agreement is completed. But being able to deeply integrate a connected product with the device that connects the product will significantly improve the setup and performance. The type of optimization of multiple devices is a big part of Apple's competitive advantage. People love AirPods because it doesn't require Bluetooth setup problems – they only work. If Amazon can do the same with other smart home gadgets – something is already working on – it will sell much more of them.
And if echo sounders work better, Amazon can sell more things in general. Talking to artificial intelligence-driven robots can be the future of computing, but ultimately, Alexa is working to make Amazon purchases more seamless.
Amazonas Eero is like a Trojan horse. Amazon will convince customers to invite the router to their homes with the device's known and legitimate Wi-Fi speed – unlocking and coverage capabilities. In turn, the company will get a little more reason in its intention to turn the household into an all-Alexa.