Blog Op-Ed piece submitted by The New Oil
On November 17, 2020, Amazon quietly launched their latest product and privacy invasion. Amazon has been pushing to get into the healthcare market for years now, purchasing medication-management provider PillPack in 2018, launching their employee health clinic Amazon Care in 2019, and now this. News outlets have been quick to praise this move, as Amazon is promising medication at a faster pace using their Prime two-day shipping, lower cost, and even affordable medication for uninsured customers.
But as always – and especially with Amazon – we need to ask about the hidden costs.
Amazon is a monopoly. End of story. If you need proof, just look at the effect that this mere announcement and launch had on competition: the same day Amazon Pharmacy launched drugstores, distributors, and health insurers lost $22 billion in market value. In one day. That’s how massive and scary Amazon is. Just by announcing this, stockholders are already expecting everyone else to be doomed. And who can blame them? Amazon has been accused of underselling other, smaller businesses to drive them out of business and then buy them up. (Sources 1, 2, 3, 4) They have that much money, that they can afford to eat the loss until their competitors have to fold and then they can buy them up, perpetuating the illusion of competition when really all the money funnels into Jeff Bezos’ pocket.
But that’s not the worst of it. Amazon is one of “The Big Five” tech companies: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Amazon is one of the most aggressive data collection companies out there, rivaling – in my opinion – only Google and Facebook. Facebook is just the only one of the three who’s bad at staying out of Congress’s crosshairs. Amazon never forgets a search you do, and they collect data aggressively from all their other popular subsidiaries such as Audible, Twitch, Goodreads, IMDB, and more. They’ve built a varied and impressively widespread net to follow you all across the internet and often even in our own homes. Alexa listens to you. Sidewalk tracks your real-time location. Kindle knows what you read, how fast you read, where you stopped reading and where you spent extra time reading. IMDB can safely guess what shows and movies you're watching, assuming you don't already use Amazon Prime and their stable of award-winning shows. Goodreads knows what books you like. And your eating habits, which already offer a window into your health, is tracked by Whole Foods. No matter how hard you try to opt out of Amazon’s panopticon, you are still tracked by your neighbor’s Ring doorbell (this data is readily handed over to police, by the way), though the app on your phone, the sites you visit, and now their glorious Sidewalk initiative.
So what does all of this have to do with Amazon Pharmacy? Data. This is just another new realm of information to track. Let me give you a little personal insight into my life: I take multivitamins, Flouxetine (20mg), and sometimes over-the-counter sleeping pills. From this, you can safely deduce that I do pay somewhat attention to my health (not enough), have depression, and occasionally have trouble sleeping. Sounds pretty valuable, to me. Imagine: Amazon Prime’s streaming algorithm serves me more depressing shows and movies (I’m looking at you, Mr Robot Season 3), leading me to lengthen my term with Amazon’s clinic where my mental illness is being treated. Oh the money. And that’s just what they get directly. They could even sell that data to LexisNexis and Axciom. Sounds unethical? So is running small companies out of business so you can buy them up.
I know, I know, I sound completely insane. And that’s fine. Orwell sounded crazy before Snowden. People citing the depressing effects of social media sounded crazy before experts began releasing studies and statistics. I'm totally in favor of affordable or even free healthcare, but at what cost? Our freedom? Is that a life worth living? We’ve let Big Tech sucker us so many times, are we going to do it again?
Article received from and published on behalf of regular decentralize.today blog contributor, The New Oil