The Problems Of Getting Too Big - Amazon And Hikvision

Many tout the advantages of scale. Hikvision, e.g., emphasizes that because it manufacturers so many tens of millions of devices, its prices are lower, etc. Amazon likewise benefits on its selling scale.

A new interesting WSJ article points out the downsides to being so big:

Amazon.com Inc. has a Facebook Inc. -size problem: It’s become such a gigantic, sprawling, powerful business that its inevitable missteps are beginning to erode trust in its products and services, good will in Washington, and its ability to achieve globe-spanning dominance.

The same phenomena is happening with Hikvision. Hikvision wants simultaneously to be a Chinese government-owned leader in PRC video surveillance as well as a trusted partner in Western government systems, they sell surveillance to concentration camps and want to be a leader in American home security (Ezviz), they do video and access control and intrusion and warehouse robots and big data and cloud AI, etc.

Not only is it hard to be good in so many diverse areas, but the more areas companies expand, the more likely they are to offer or do things that engender public criticism. As the WSJ comments on Amazon:

Amazon is embroiled in controversies over the use of its facial-recognition software, the treatment of both its warehouse workers and its delivery drivers, whether its talking speakersviolate child-protection rules, how much it is reallylowering prices at Whole Foods, and whether or not its Ring doorbell-camera subsidiary is protecting users’ privacy. In the past month, the company got into a very publicTwitter spatwith Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed breaking up Amazon, rebutted reports that itfires warehouse employees through an app, anddenied that it dismissed seven workerson account of their pregnancies. Before that, the company had to start acceptingcash at its cashless storesin order to avoid discrimination, and address allegations its employees listen to recordings from Echo devices. And then of course there was the time Amazon decided not to locate their HQ2 in New York City, after local and state politicians called the company so toxic they’d rather not host a massive economic stimulus. [emphasis added]

Notice how 3 of the problems WSJ call out about Amazon are security / surveillance system related. Hikvision, of course, has its own list of such public security issues.

Hard to see any easy way to get around these issues - whether it is Amazon or Hikvision - and they should be considered when examining the future of such companies.

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