Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the social media giant came under intense scrutiny for selling personal data, set off a national reckoning with the unprecedented power wielded by major tech companies as it relates not only to data privacy but more broadly to market competition in the 21st century economy. As a faith leader working in small business, I regularly hear from concerned members of our community, and know all too well that this conversation is long overdue.
But I worry that when we talk about data privacy and the increasing power of a handful of major tech companies – so-called industry disruptors – to crush competitors and local small businesses, we often fail to address one of the main offenders, Amazon, which will soon decide on a home for its second headquarters.
Community and city leaders are trying to convince us that Amazon and its efforts to build a new headquarters, often called HQ2, would be great for local workers and small business owners that have struggled to survive in recent years. This is an outright lie.
The fabric of our community is based on local businesses that thrive because they provide personalized services, have generations of experience, and knowledge. These small business are already hurting because of Amazon, and this is happening on a national scale. Helping Amazon increase their reach and presence will only further that problem, which is something our community and truly all communities across the U.S. must consider. Speaking of Amazon’s reach, we also need to consider the major compromise to our privacy presented by Amazon.
Amazon is considering L.A. as a future home to their HQ2, which would be a massive development that many cities across the country are competing for. Some offers to lure Amazon range around $7 billion. While the exact figure Los Angeles is offering is unconfirmed, its reasonable that the Los Angeles incentives package to Amazon will be on the high end of the national spectrum.
They promise jobs, but if you look beyond the surface level, we see that most of those jobs will be executive and white collar opportunities, something we already see a lot of in Los Angeles, and at the magnitude at which Amazon provides them, an increase that would further distance the disparity in income and opportunity for the majority of people in our city. Along with those many, new high-wage earners, the costs of housing will follow upwards, furthering the general disparity in our city.
Small business already hurts and Amazon expanding their reach and presence will only increase the likelihood that all our personal data is being sold or used for things we don’t even know about. It’s a wonder why Jeff Bezos hasn’t been called to explain himself like Mark Zuckerberg, when it comes to Amazon’s record of protecting our privacy. Perhaps our own Senator Diane Feinstein can take on these opportunities.