by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com
Many people know that Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world and the founder of Amazon. They have seen pictures of him and perhaps heard about his high-profile 2019 divorce. But many are not aware of the darker side of Bezos’ Amazon empire, including business ventures that raise questions about privacy, surveillance and product safety.
A Frontline documentary, Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, released in February 2020, exposes the backstory of the Amazon CEO’s rise to power and the global implications of his rampant ambition and aggressive ventures.
It took Frontline a year to create “Amazon: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos” and it includes many interviews with his top lieutenants, almost all of whom are men. What emerges from people who know Bezos and worked with him is not so much a picture of a power-driven despot as someone with uncanny visions of how people can be engineered and data can be exploited.
As a Princeton graduate working on Wall Street, Bezos is largely credited with introducing the idea of basing financial analyses on data, an approach that had not been done before. He founded Amazon in 1995 as a seller of books, but even then collection of data was crucial to the business plan.
Right from the start, Bezos “treated the site as a laboratory where he studied customer behavior,” says the film. According to Randy Miller, former director of pricing and product management at Amazon:
“We could track how a customer navigated through the site. So we could see what you looked at; we could also see what you paused at; we could see what you put in your basket but didn’t order; we could see what you put in your basket and did order. So that’s when we started realizing, man, this [data collection] is rich, this is rich, rich, rich. And so we’ve used it for everything.”
© 2020 Dr. Joseph Mercola