I admit it. I'm a loyal Amazon customer, but then again who isn’t? It only takes a little: a credit card, a cell phone, or a computer - and then a simple click. And we have the world at our finger tips, without having to waste hours in stores or long lines, risking perhaps not even finding what we are looking for.
Amazon and the other web giants are changing the world
The e-commerce giants like Amazon, Alibaba, Ebay and last but not least Facebook – which just recently launched its marketplace – are revolutionizing the world and our buying habits.
Their web pages present to us all in a simple, comfortable, and convenient way, making us more and more used to the idea of its uniqueness and irreplaceability. But is all that glitters really gold? Behind such ease and simplicity of our lives, is there maybe a price that we will have to pay in the future? The question we should start making is how these marketplaces are really transforming the world and ourselves. Is it right to ask if there is a dark side to Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba and all the others e-commerce giants?
Just a few months ago, Jack Ma, founder and president of Alibaba, officially declared in a public speech to an audience of entrepreneurs that the internet and artificial intelligence will provoke social upheavals with painful consequences for the world over the next 30 years. The spread of new technologies will have a disruptive effect on the economy and society, threatening all the old industrial sectors and traditional jobs. Let’s think only of the robots that will replace almost all manufacturing work, effectively canceling millions of jobs all over the world in one fell swoop, with tragic consequences for their families.
Privacy: a right to defend and protect
But if perhaps this aspect was already known and widely expected for years, another that we often underestimate is that related to our privacy. Amazon, Ebay, but also Google, Facebook and all the other giants of the new economy, base their business on our personal data. Are we really sure that it is good to let Facebook know our tastes, or is it really advisable to let Google suggest which pizzeria to go to or which road to take?
It was the White House itself that launched a strong warning on this issue of Big Data a few years ago, asking for greater protection and transparency in the management of personal information of users by these companies. The Obama Presidency’s report , pointed to the ocean of data collected by public and private companies that can be used improperly or used for unlawful purposes. We had already dealt with the question in the past to understand if such a thing exists as a citizen’s right to control their own data circulating on the network, finding considerable diversity between Europe and the United States . In short, the issue of how our data is used by web giants is still wide open, and it will be fundamental to track the future road of human rights.
Marketplace: a danger for small shop owners
Returning to our marketplaces, we often forget that, preferring the online purchase to the traditional "offline" we do nothing more than render more powerful the groups that already have incalculable power and wealth (such as Amazon or Ebay) and render small retailers even poorer, the shopkeepers of small distribution, from the trusted booksellers to the grocery store near home. Perhaps we should learn to balance our buying habits, remembering that there are other fundamental factors to consider beyond the wallet, the convenience and the speed.
For our next purchase, we think of the fact that Amazon, in the last years, has accomplished several additions to expand its sphere of influence, acquiring a dominant position on the market: one of all was the acquisition of the sixth supermarket chain of the United States, Whole Foods Market.
Furthermore, Amazon is using its third-party marketplace as a laboratory to spot new products to sell and exert more control over pricing, as writes Atlantic’s journalist Robinson Mayer points out: "In the past, the criticisms of Amazon were focused on the Marketplace feature, which allows small shops to sell their products on Amazon. Some merchants have accused Amazon of actually using Marketplace as a laboratory : after having collected data on the products that sell better, it introduces the market of competing products that cost less, and puts them up for sale on its site."
In short, our purchases are equivalent to choices, very important choices. Let’s try to think about what is more ethical and fair, not just what is more convenient.