Amazon says it has officially closed its acquisition of Eero, that independent maker of stupendously easy-to-use internet routers. Amazon purchased the company for an undisclosed sum in a deal that was first announced a month ago. And with that, Eero is no longer just a Wi-Fi hardware startup, but a part of one of the most important tech companies of this era.
Amazon hardware executive Dave Limp told WIRED in a phone interview that Eero would continue to exist as its own entity within Amazon, the same way that connected camera companies Ring and Blink have maintained their own identities under the ever-widening Amazon umbrella. The company will also sell Eero’s $400 bundle, which includes one second-generation Eero hub and two Eero beacons—enough hardware for an apartment or small home—for $100 off for today only.
Amazon already knows a fair amount about your online activities, whether through browsing, streaming, or voice-commanding; now, it will know which devices you’re connecting to your home Wi-Fi network.
Eero may be getting an Amazonian price cut and keeping its brand name, but some Eero users have wondered whether this change in ownership will lead to changes in privacy policies that would render the Amazon-owned Eero a kind of Onavo for your home internet usage. (Onavo is the VPN company Facebook acquired and then used to analyze app usage). The router is arguably the most critical endpoint in an internet-connected home, and as such, is also one of the most all-knowing devices. Amazon already knows a fair amount about your online activities, whether through browsing, streaming, or voice commanding; now, it will know which devices you’re connecting to your home Wi-Fi network.
Both Limp and Nick Weaver, Eero’s cofounder and CEO, were eager to address these issues in a phone interview yesterday. Amazon’s Limp insisted that Eero’s current privacy policies will stand as currently written. “It’s exactly the same as it is today, and we have no plans to change it,” Limp said. “This is the commitment we’re making to customers, and if we were going to change it, the time to change it would be now.” Limp added that he’s a customer of Eero himself, and said that his home was a kind of Faraday cage for Wi-Fi connectivity until he bought into Eero’s mesh networking system about 18 months ago.
Weaver said that privacy has been one of the key principles of Eero since the company started, that “consumer privacy continues to be the underpinning of what we built. We’re going to continue to put that first, and stay unwavering.”
Tim Mackey, a technology evangelist and open-source proponent at Synopsys-owned Black Duck software, says that Eero has done a good job of growing the capabilities of its Wi-Fi hardware by using data in a thoughtful way. “It’s been filling in blind spots or slow spots within a network, in order to give people the kind of high-speed, low latency internet capabilities we’ve come to expect in the home.”
But, Mackey says, customers are absolutely right to wonder what the Amazon acquisition will mean in the long term. “For practical purposes, your router provider has access to your network traffic, the domain names of the sites you visit, which types of devices you’re connecting, time-of-day activity, it could even know when the kids get home and turn on the Xbox instead of doing homework,” he says. Plus, he notes, current privacy policies could always change with a simple software update.
Eero cofounder Weaver acknowledged that Eero’s approach to data-gathering could change in the future, but said customers would know about it. “We’re going to keep shipping new products and new features, and I think the thing is, we’re going to be clear and transparent,” he said. “If we’re shipping a new thing that requires a new set of data, we will be clear with people and give them control [over their data].”
There may very well be some clear upsides to the Amazon-Eero hook up, too. Both parties have hit the ground running and soon plan to launch Amazon’s helpful “Wi-Fi Simple Setup” wizard for Eero devices. In theory, this means when you pull a new Echo or other Amazon-made product out of the box, it will start to scan your home Eero network and use your stored, encrypted credentials to automatically connect.
Limp and Weaver said it’s possible that in the future, you might be able to bug Alexa for information on your network’s performance, although the Eero beasons themselves are unlikely to house the microphones, since they’re usually put in non-obvious places. In general, Limp insisted, Amazon wants to just make the smart home “drop dead simple.”