Despite the privacy concerns, labor strikes, and reports that Amazon is selling literal trash on its platform—in the face of all of the myriad reasons shoppers should have avoided buying through Amazon this year—the company still made a killing this season.
The company said this week that the 2019 holiday season was record-shattering. The number of items delivered through its Prime same-day or one-day services almost quadrupled. More than half a billion products were ordered in the toys, fashion, home, and beauty categories. And most depressingly, the company said it was a record year for Amazon devices and Alexa, with tens of millions of the products ordered worldwide. Moreover, the company added that people bought “millions more Amazon Devices compared to last holiday and the best-selling devices worldwide included Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Show 5.”
Despite whatever Amazon would like you to believe, privacy is not—as it has claimed—foundational to its always-on, always-listening devices. The company’s products are steeped in privacy scandals, everything from eavesdropping employees who listen in on private conversations to the ability for Amazon workers to discover a user’s home address. Alexa has mistakenly recorded a private conversation and sent it to someone who shouldn’t have heard it. The fact that they’re always on means they’re recording even children, a fact that has troubled lawmakers. And yes, you can ask the robot to delete recordings after a specified period of time, but the responsibility falls on you to do so and comes with the loaded expectation that the robot will perform as it’s supposed to.
That’s to say nothing of ongoing strikes over Amazon’s labor requirements and conditions in its warehouses. Or of Amazon’s system that shuffles in third-party sellers with verified brands, creating a chaotic shopping environment that’s evidently serving up actual garbage and rotten or expired goods. Or of the company’s Ring products, which have been dogged by information security mishaps, privacy concerns over its extremely problematic relationship with the cops as well as the way Ring data is shared with law enforcement and the fact that Amazon is amassing a veritable surveillance state.
In other words, nobody listened—certainly not to this website, which has repeatedly reminded users to chuck their Amazon devices into the sea and avoid buying them entirely. Sure, ordering something and watching it materialize on your doorstep a day later is convenient. Having a digital assistant around to ask to change the lighting or shuffle the music you’re listening to is nice. But at what cost?
Clearly, shoppers feel the immediate rewards outweigh the many, many significant costs. And that’s the most depressing part of all.