Amazon’s Astro may be cute, but security experts warn of privacy concerns


Astro may be cute, but he’ll always be watching.


Amazon’s new robot is designed to zip around your house and serve as a faithful watchdroid. Named Astro, the bot will keep an eye on an aging family member and warn you if the stove is inadvertently left on. You’ll never have to worry about the bot’s focus; Astro can’t be distracted by a big steak. 

With big round blinking eyes, Astro is reminiscent of Pixar’s Wall-E and just as cute. But privacy experts say consumers need to be aware that those eyes might not be real but they’ll always be watching.

“One of my big fears about this new wave of technology that [Amazon has] unleashed this week is that it will introduce more full-scale data harvesting,” says Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Who knows what data they could harvest from a robot that travels around your home?”

Saving the showstopper until the end of its hour-long fall product event, Amazon took the wraps off Astro on Tuesday. The robot, available by invite only for the moment, costs $1,000. The price will jump to $1,450 when it’s released more broadly.

Amazon says the smart home robot, a sort of Alexa on wheels, can monitor security, keep tabs on young family members and be there for whatever you might need Alexa for, like voice control of your lights. The bot is operated via an app that also receives Astro’s alerts. The app is used as well to drive the robot around and see what it sees.

While Astro serves as a test of whether we want robots wheeling around our homes, it’s also another example of a product from Amazon that stretches the bounds of…