Last updated on June 9, 2022
At this point, I think it’s time for Americans to admit that Amazon has beat us. Roughly 60% of adults, or 147 million, in America are Amazon Prime members. That’s around the same number of people who voted in the 2020 Presidential Election and more than the number of married people in the United States. Given this, it’s fair to say that the commerce and technology giant based right here in Seattle greatly influences our everyday lives. However, many don’t know the ways Amazon is branching out from its online roots and collecting more of our data.
When one walks into an Amazon Go store for the first time, like I did a few weeks ago at the location a few blocks away from Northwest, you are immediately taken aback by the ceiling covered with cameras and sensors. Amazon uses this technology plus Artificial Intelligence, or AI, to allow customers to leave the store without waiting in line. This is called cashier-less “Just Walk Out” automation. Many people, including myself, were initially confused by this new technology. It felt criminal to walk out of the store without paying, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
Amazon Go stores aren’t the only place where “Just Walk Out” technology is being implemented; Amazon is advertising this new technology for sale to other private companies. Already, you can “Just Walk Out” at over 40 stores worldwide including the Climate Pledge Arena right here in Seattle. Though the Amazon Go stores aren’t as big as their other supermarket competitors average around 35,000 square feet compared to the 450 to 2,700 square foot range of Amazon Go stores, their new technology is so enticing to large corporations. This is because of the extensive number of cameras and sensors, though expensive at first, that reduce the need for human labor and cost in the long run. Speculative reports say the company only employs three people per store, an incredibly low number if you’ve ever been to a QFC in the past century. However, “Just Walk Out” technology has an additional lucrative use which companies flock for that Amazon would rather you not know about.
With all this interest in Amazon’s groundbreaking technology, you’d thin the company would be more than willing to supply the public with all the details of “Just Walk Out,” but the shopping giant is coy about revealing how much information they collect on their shoppers. While Amazon states that they don’t give user information to 3rd party vendors, they store many data pieces internally through apps like Amazon itself, Kindle ebooks, Ring doorbell, Echo speaker, and more. Through the compilation of vast amounts of statistics, Amazon is able to reveal your economic status, politics, culture, and religion. Thankfully, you don’t have to put up with it. The only way to completely stop Amazon from collecting your information is to stop using its services altogether, but there are ways to limit how much of your personal data Amazon accumulates. Firstly, you can request a copy of the information they’ve collected. On devices like Ring Doorbell and Alexa, you can visit their respective apps to delete recordings and change privacy settings. Amazon allows its customers to control what items from their purchase history can be used for future product recommendations. The closest you can come to complete privacy while using the technology giant is disabling browser history and interest-based ads, but you will likely still be under the watchful eyes of Amazon.
While Amazon’s controversial data policy muddies the notoriety of some of their most recent innovations, like the “Just Walk Out” technology of Amazon Go stores, the company continues to have a stranglehold on US eCommerce sales. This is the case for many other big tech companies that are finding new ways to collect increasingly high amounts of their customers’ data. Amazon holds 56.7% of the market and will do so for the foreseeable future given its returning Prime customers and the money they can re-invest through the numerous companies they own and side ventures. If Amazon is Goliath, it’s time for David to start peace negotiations.