FRESH AIR: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now the richest man in the world, with an empire that stretches from Hollywood to Whole Foods — and even into outer space. The new PBS Frontline documentary, Amazon Empire: The Rise And Reign Of Jeff Bezos, investigates how Bezos transformed Amazon from an online bookseller into a trillion-dollar business that’s unprecedented in its size and reach. Director James Jacoby, who worked with fellow filmmaker Anya Bourg on the project, calls the company an “inescapable part of our modern lives.”
“It’s not just how the majority of Americans are shopping online,” he says. “It’s also these devices in our homes. It’s also the facial recognition software that’s used by police departments. It’s cloud computing for the government and national security establishment.” Jacoby notes that Amazon’s ubiquity — and the fact that “so much power is pooled into the hands of one company and one man” — raises a host of issues. The company’s Echo smart speaker has been known to record — and occasionally listen to — the conversations of unsuspecting homeowners. In 2019, the European Union antitrust arm announced an investigation into Amazon’s use of data collected from third-party sellers.
“I think that [Atlantic writer] Franklin Foer in the film puts it best, which is like everything that’s amazing or awesome about Jeff Bezos and Amazon is also something to be feared about Amazon and Jeff Bezos,” Jacoby says. MORE