How Amazon Could Soon Track Almost Every Single Aspect of Your Life, Security Experts Warn

The recent multi-billion dollar acquisition of iRobot and One Medical by Amazon have generated a series of concerns from antitrust advocates, legislators, and privacy experts.
amazon tracking

Amazon’s sprawling business model and reputation for surveilling consumers and competition alike make the company seem almost unstoppable.

Within three weeks of one another, Amazon made a total of $5.6 billion in acquisitions, extending its influence over consumers’ daily lives. They turned down Business Insider publication’s request for an interview and to respond to inquiries on data privacy.

IRobot headquarters in Bedford MA
IRobot headquarters in Bedford, MA by Zoole USA under CC BY-SA 4.0

Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit advocacy organization Fight for the Future, claims that Amazon has depended on monitoring to dominate the competition since it first emerged as a substitute for physical bookstores and has since seized more than half of the online retail sector.

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People often mistake Amazon for an online marketplace, but Greer told Business Insider that the corporation actually specializes in spying. “The ability of Amazon to gather and use data is the foundation of every aspect of its operation.”

It is a known fact that Amazon monitors its employees, from tracking its delivery drivers with AI cameras to measuring productivity with the “time off task” metric. Drivers and warehouse workers have mentioned that due to the rigorous requirements, employees are afraid to take breaks for the restroom for fear of falling behind.

Observing the competitors and you

Whether you choose to buy something or not, Amazon gathers data on consumer behavior every time you click on something.  You are indirectly allowing the tech giant to know things like your payment information and address and whether you read reviews or compare prices before making a purchase.

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Data at Amazon’s disposal

Greer informed The Guardian that Amazon has access to all of this information. “They monitor what people search for, click on, and don’t click on. Each time a user performs a search but fails to click, it’s a message to them that a vacuum already exists.”

Similarly, the tech giant has access to information outside of only its shopping website. They can also gather data on:

• The television shows and movies you view on its Prime video service.

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• Books that you listen to or read using Audible and GoodReads

• Podcasts you listen to through Wondery

• Games you play on Twitch.

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shutterstock 1856994502

Through Eero wi-fi systems, they also gets access to individuals’ web browsing histories and even the groceries they purchase at Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh stores.

Amazon is a factor in the Top 10 US industries by GDP

Of the top 10 US industries by GDP – retail trade, information, healthcare, manufacturing durable and non-durable goods, wholesale trade, finance and insurance, state and local government, real estate, professional and business services – The Guardian reported that Amazon has a finger in all but real estate.

According to Ron Knox, a senior researcher, and writer for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “This all works together because Amazon is trying its best to funnel information: about the lives of its consumers, about their eating, sleeping, and purchasing patterns.

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“The information is gathered to allow them to market to us more effectively. That is exactly what they intend to do – and the foundation of its monopoly.”

Institute for Local Self-Reliance is an anti-monopoly nonprofit that gives tech assistance to community businesses.

800px Amazon Spheres 05
AmazonSpheres  by Joe Mabel under CC BY-SA 4.0

The effects of capitalism’s surveillance

Amazon’s owned businesses and services have long raised questions about data protection. For instance, the Ring doorbell camera, which they purchased in 2018 for $1 billion, works with thousands of police departments to monitor activities outside of people’s houses.

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According to Politico, the business has occasionally shared recordings with law enforcement without obtaining a warrant.

The Amazon Echo, a voice-activated personal assistant, is accused of gathering user data without permission to target advertisements. The recordings are admissible in court.

What does the most recent Amazon acquisition mean?

The acquisitions of One Medical and iRobot resulted in the creation of Roomba robotic vacuums. It indicates that they have access to consumer health information and will soon be able to map the interior of their homes.

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Greer told Insider that the issue “goes so far beyond what we generally think of when we talk about surveillance capitalism, like terrifying advertisements and algorithms, etc.”

“We are aware that Amazon sells products for recording audio and video in and around our residences, workplaces, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and abortion facilities.”

They are absolute killers

When asked how to limit their out-of-control expansion, Greer said, “Amazon is like the mythical Hydra, where you clip off one head, and two more grow in its place.” 

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The corporation increases its value, which is now assessed at $1357.19B, by using data from marketplace retailers and rivals.

They are killers, according to Jason Boyce, the founder of Avenue 7 Media, a company that aids sellers in navigating the Amazon marketplace. When it comes to entering a market and consuming as much market share as they can, they are pure killers and without conscience.

They have a strategy of outbidding small businesses’ prices by producing Amazon-brand knockoffs of hot-selling items offered by smaller retailers at a lower price. This has caused widespread fear of “death by Amazon” due to its vast warehouse infrastructure and ability to manufacture branded products.

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“Due to Amazon’s self-preferencing, it is difficult to compete with the products that are promoted on their own platforms. They exclude local firms by using business place surveillance. They use their business place surveillance to edge out local businesses,” Greer told Insider.

The legal case against Amazon

Antitrust concerns about data collection now abound as Amazon’s acquisition of market share lowers customer privacy protections.

Eyes on Amazon shareholders day of action Boston Massachusetts May 24 2021 001
Eyes on Amazon shareholders day of action, Boston, Massachusetts by Joe Piette under CC BY-SA 2.0

They hold 56.7% of the market share for online purchases, despite the Federal Trade Commission not classifying it as a monopoly. It exploits its significant mergers and acquisitions to keep its market dominance.

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When a business has a real monopoly, it has no rivals. It can raise prices indefinitely, leaving consumers with no other options and stifling innovation by preventing the introduction of new items to the market.

“There are aspects I believe are challenging for people to comprehend. These include the extent of Amazon’s monopolistic power and abuse and the fact that the danger of their data collecting goes beyond the surveillance harm of the ring cameras,” Greer said.

“It’s a kind of coalescence into a company that is becoming unstoppable and threatens to swallow up almost every traditional institution we depend on. These include web hosting, hospitals, the entire medical industry, auto industry, books, etc.” 

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When the platform was first developed in 1994, founder Jeff Bezos had the goal of turning it into a global corporation.

An early Amazon employee was quoted in 2012 Forrester research, where he explained that Bezos’ “underlying ambitions were not to establish an online bookstore or an online retailer, but rather a ‘utility’ that would become important to commerce.”