It is now possible to live a full, even typical, life while consuming things only from Amazon or one of its subsidiaries: grocery shopping at Whole Foods, wearing clothes bought on Shopbop and Zappos, kicking back with The Man in the High Castle on Fire TV at night, maybe looking up the actors on IMDb as you do, before listening to an Audible book as you doze off. Amazon has been the subject of numerous antitrust inquiries, investigations, and lawsuits—most recently a lawsuit alleging that the company punishes sellers who list their products more cheaply on other sites—though none of these has yet resulted in meaningful changes to the company. The stakes are high; Amazon is now moving aggressively into online advertising, a space currently dominated by Facebook and Google, where it will likely leverage the tremendous amount of consumer data it gleans every second from its online and brick-and-mortar storefronts to sell hyper-targeted ads.
“Amazon is a beast we’ve never seen before,” Alimahomed-Wilson told me. “Amazon powers our Zoom calls. It contracts with ICE. It’s in our neighborhoods. This is a very different thing than just being a large retailer, like Walmart or the Ford Motor Company.”