I Prayed have prayed
Lord, may we treat technological opportunities with respect and be mindful of the costs and benefits in front of us.

Analysis. A few years ago, I purchased a robot vacuum cleaner. And I admit, I like it. My pancake-like friend does get stuck sometimes, but it does the job (usually). It helps with house clean-up, and it’s fun to have around. In fact, my family affectionately calls it “Sparky.”

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But I never really thought about Sparky’s data collection capabilities. At least not before reading a report that Amazon intends to buy out iRobot, the maker of the popular Roomba. Even though I don’t have a Roomba, that raised my eyebrows. Why iRobot?

Announcing the $1.7 billion deal, a senior Amazon executive praised iRobot’s “incredibly practical and inventive” products that help with “cleaning when and where customers want while avoiding common obstacles in the home…. Customers love iRobot products.”

So perhaps Amazon just wants to jump on a great product.

But a number of tech observers quickly expressed wariness. Maybe the excellence in robotics is not Amazon’s sole or even primary goal. After all, Roombas clean houses and learn how to avoid obstacles. To do that, they necessarily create internal maps. And those maps chart change inside a home.

“The vacuum company has detailed knowledge of our floor plans and, crucially, how they change. It knows where your kitchen is, which your kids’ rooms are, where your sofa is (and how new it is), and if you recently turned the guest room into a nursery,” said Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, a journalist focusing on smart homes for The Verge.

“This type of data is digital gold to a company whose primary purpose is to sell you more stuff,” she added.

Keep in mind, this data is not necessarily localized on a machine. iRobot uses cloud servers (in fact, it is on the Amazon Web Services Cloud) and its products encourage internet connectivity with mobile devices or smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to meet customer demands for convenience.

So the information is being gathered and is able to be shared globally. And I suspect many of us may well click a little button at the bottom of a long “privacy policy” or “terms of use” screen that theoretically gives our consent for that to happen.

If not, a smart company like Amazon can encourage us to participate in other ways. For example, last year I wrote about how the e-commerce giant began offering customers $10 of store credit if they agreed to let their palm prints be scanned into the Amazon One payment system. Apparently this biometrics program —again billed as one built for customer convenience — is having success because recent reports suggest Amazon is expanding the technology at Whole Foods grocery stores (which it owns) and is selling the technology to other stores and event spaces.

The uncomfortable truth is that — as creepy as it may feel when we stop to think about it — many of us are willing to trade personal information for convenience (or a few bucks). And Amazon appears to be banking on that including information about our homes.

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, told Reuters in 2017, “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared.”

Surely that “ecosystem of things and services” is an opportunity for Amazon and its partners to sell products in a vey targeted way.

The data points from a Roomba map are just one piece of the puzzle. We shouldn’t be surprised that Amazon knows what we explore and buy on its massive (and very convenient) e-commerce platform. Similarly, we know that it knows what we like to watch or listen to if we use its video or music offerings.

But Amazon has also been gobbling up other companies or creating its own tools that may develop intimate access to us and our homes. We already mentioned Whole Foods and its ability to tie us to our food purchases. To name a few more, there’s the Ring doorbell that sees comings and goings. There is the Eero mesh WiFi router system that can track your internet network performance and what devices are connected. And, of course, there is the popular Alexa that listens attentively, converses with us, and can act as a command center — a brain, of sorts.

With this in mind, I am struck by another quote iRobot’s Angle gave to TechCrunch: “The home of the future is a robot… the vacuum cleaners and the other devices are hands and eyes and appendages of the home robot. Ultimately, this smart home of the future isn’t controlled by you… We need a home that programs itself, and you just live in your home, and the home does the right thing based on understanding what’s going on.”

For now Amazon’s purchase of iRobot is under an antitrust review by the Federal Trade Commission (along with its attempt to purchase One Medical, a subscription based primary healthcare company). But the tech giant is clearly interested in the “smart home” future.

I don’t believe we should fear the technology to come, nor should we discount benefits that may come for us and our neighbors. But it is worth being prayerfully mindful what information we may be sharing with interested parties across the world wide web. Speaking of which, I think I better go and double check that my robot vacuum is not connected online.

What do you think of this “smart home” future? Share your thoughts and prayers below.

Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.s public policy arena. Photo Credit: Onur Binay on Unsplash.

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Jim
September 12, 2022

These technologies will be used in the last days to facilitate rounding up Christians and enslaving the world’s population. Mapping a home will allow finding people quickly and efficiently. The difference between a Christian and a heathen will be easily apparent with a quick user interface history. In the last days, convenience will equal slavery.

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Deborah
September 11, 2022

Prayers for world healing blessings stop them spy and war and other issues trust lord take care us and families 🙏🏼

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Gail Wood
September 10, 2022

A number of times my son’s cell phone was in the room when we were talking about certain subjects . The next day he would have ad’s pop up about what we had discussed.
My friend has Seri in her car . She told me one day that she had asked it the same question about three times because it couldn’t understand her southern accent. My friend became frustrated and said something to the effect ….you are so stupid .
The computer answered her back and said…,that was not nice, you are mean.
I laughed so much and thought she was kidding. She proved it to me.
Seri told her ….,you are not very nice , that was mean.
Does anyone get the feeling that our cars , cells , tv’s etc…. Are gathering information on us ?
Don’t talk about anything you don’t want anyone to know because devices are listening.
No smart home or devices for me.

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    Sean
    September 11, 2022

    Dang, not the first time I’ve heard this. I have a Samsung phone and let me tell ya I have not even set up Bixby on my voice recognition or anything. My wife on the other hand despite my warning set hers up and we noticed that Bixby would randomly come on why? We don’t know just would. She would get annoyed and I would laugh and say see you should’ve listened. Voice recognition and assistance is fine but just remember Google, Siri, Alexa, and Bixby can activate at anytime. Intentional I honestly don’t know could just be a technical issue but I don’t trust it.

    It literally is Convenience Vs. Privacy and really just sort of a question of are you willing to give up your privacy for Convenience and also a question of not necessarily cant you trust the technology but really the people behind the technology.

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sheila taylor
September 10, 2022

The quote above that says the smart home of the future is NOT CONTROLED BY YOU. Says it all. I’ll keep my freedom.

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Herb Johnston
September 10, 2022

It’s easy to say we shouldn’t fear the technology. Of course, the more technology we get the more we think we need it.. no I don’t want to go back 200 years to one everyone’s personal Plumbing evacuation was done in a hole in the ground or in and out house.. but as is always the case-, the more comfort we get.. the softer and lazier we get.. and pretty soon people are saying things like” well I’m not advocating that we fear technology”.. but it’s okay to have a vacuum cleaner that is sending your personal information to a central source to further control your life right? And why is it we have to be so concerned about political correctness.. everyone is so afraid to say what they are angry about.. at the risk of offending someone.. people it has gone past the point of the ridiculous.. to the point of the tragic.. to the point where the globalists.. the satanists.. are using us to create our own suicide against us at our own hands. Of course, – we want to be very gentle about this because while we’re committing suicide.. we don’t want to offend anyone. And no this is not a prayer.
But it is a basic and rough description of the Stockholm syndrome.. look it up.. don’t use Google

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Katja D.
September 10, 2022

I prefer a ‘dumb home’ where I’m the only one making decisions. I don’t have or want an Alexa because Alexa listens to everything happening in the house. And I don’t need or want a fridge that tells me what I need to buy. I hadn’t heard that people are willingly providing their palm prints. I admit that the automatic vacuum has been a temptation for me but I’m glad I didn’t give in.

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Jimmy
September 10, 2022

We’re all using iPhones & androids or whatever …China’s got just about everything they need from us already. it’s pretty bad when I actually trust China, (or we at least know what they’re all about)…more than I trust our own government! now that’s a problem our DOJFBI CIA🙈🙈🙈 all this madness but God is watching better than all of them put together🙏🙏🙏

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Vicki
September 10, 2022

Recently, Amazon sent me a survey to fill out and in exchange would send me a gift. I wasn’t interested in the gift…& I didn’t want to give out my personal information. So, I started the survey out of curiosity with the intent of not completing it. The questions were all geared around a new product that they want to offer for our homes and to see if we were aware of the features…like sending them a photo of our rooms so that we could then place their furniture in it to see if we would like it or not…sending a photo of our face to see what glasses would look like, earrings, etc. It was all centered around collecting photos. I know that a lot of companies already offer these features….but I am not ready to share photos of the layout of my rooms. As for my Roomba….I frequently turn it off and move it around the house to confuse it. It gets stuck a lot as a result…but still gets the job done.

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Sue
September 10, 2022

I avoid (as much as possible) any product that has the work “Smart” in it!!

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Darlene Estlow
September 10, 2022

Father may we be mindful and way of the dangers of technology. May we not be so enamored of technology that we are careless in giving out personal information.

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Scott swift
September 10, 2022

Customers may love roombas but i have had 2 and both of their batteries went bad in them way before we felt we had gotten much use out of them, probably similiar to what will happen with electric vehichles

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Dorothy
September 10, 2022

I prefer the old-fashioned way of doing things. I do not want Alexa overhearing my conversations. I do not want a Roomba to map my house and furnishings. I do not want a car that stops and starts and goes where some tech gadget tells it to. Basically I don’t want a machine to control of my life. I submit control to GOD, not man.

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Frankie Hutchens
September 10, 2022

Lord, i pray, declare and decree no weapon formed against us will prosper, and may your Holy Spirit fill and quicken us with your wisdom and discernment regarding anything we purchase and bring into our homes, as well as activities in which we engage. Thank You Lord, and in Your Precious and powerful name I pray. Amen

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Susan
September 10, 2022

Technology can be a good thing. God inspired ideas have brought us very far and we are blessed when these ideas are used the way God intends for them to be used.
It is the ‘ill-intent’ of the greedy, selfish, evil- minded people that now make too many of these things harmful to the innocent believers of this world.

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