Amazon is the most customer-centric company in the world! But who is the customer?

By Vahid Razavi

Everyone is familiar with Amazon retail business and how small merchants that participate in its marketplace are leveraged to build Amazon’s own retail endeavors. This article is not about the merchants, but rather the end customers of Amazon products, including in-home devices such as Alexa and Ring video monitoring. 

Consumers trust Amazon not knowing that the same company that provides retail products has a huge role to play in national security and defense contracts. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a commercial arm as well as a federal contract procurement team dedicated to landing more contracts with agencies that work fundamentally to undermine civil liberties. Amazon leverages facial recognition technologies combined with Ring Video, in-home Alexa devices that are always running, along with your purchase history, your music habits, your shopping history; these place a very powerful set of data and information in the wrong hands.

So the question is, to whom is Jeff Bezos bestowed? To whom does he owe his success? The billions of dollars in CIA and other defense and intelligence agency contracts, or the privacy of Amazon consumers? Where does Amazon make its profits? 

On AWS. By providing infrastructure services and bidding on JEDI — the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract — and other defense industry sacred cash cows, Amazon is spitting in the face of consumers who trust it to protect their privacy. Amazon consumer products are a gold mine for the surveillance state with which AWS so closely works. If you think that you are immune to being hacked just know that Jeff Bezos himself had his phone hacked by Saudi agents. If Jeff can’t protect his own data how can he protect yours while working with intelligence agencies? God knows what information Alexa and Ring collect over time and how that will be used to oppress the voice of dissent in our communities! 

Amazon may be too big to be boycotted, but it’s not too big not to be regulated. Big Tech as a whole needs to be investigated by Congress. It’s business practices need to be better regulated. And not just Amazon retail, but AWS should be broken up into smaller companies. The entire organization sorely lacks ethics and has way too much power to give to one man and one company. Left unchecked, we will all suffer the consequences. 

Vahid Razavi is a Founder and Managing Director of Ethics In Technology. He has worked in Silicon Valley for over 20 years including for Amazon Web Services. He is author of two books The Age of Nepotism and Ethics in Tech and Lack Thereof.  

Image Credit: Donkey Hotey/Flickr Creative Commons

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