Prime Mover

Prime Mover

How Amazon Wove Itself into the Life of an American City

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening


If Amazon built a fulfillment center in your city, would that be good – or bad? It depends who you ask, but an examination of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, may provide a more informed answer to the question. In Baltimore, Amazon isn’t focused only on ecommerce. In Baltimore, Amazon is involved with sports teams, government contracts, surveillance and security. In this New York Times article, journalist Scott Shane explores the pros and cons of the Amazonian city. If Baltimore is the city of the future, would you want to live there?


Whether National Football League data analytics or cloud storage, Amazon’s offerings are going far beyond the company’s original role as a product sales and delivery middleman.

As the so-called apex predator of digital business, Amazon has been challenging brick and mortar retailers for years, but the behemoth is spreading its influence through unexpected industries with its “tireless innovation, relentless focus on data, unforgiving employment practices and omnivorous competition.” Amazon provides the computer chips embedded in the shoulder pads of Baltimore Ravens football players, thus tracking their movements, providing coaches with statistics and analysis, and supplanting supposition with quantifiable data.

The US National Security Agency uses Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud computing services – as do many small start-ups, clothing giant UnderArmor, and Netflix. The federal government is debating whether Amazon’s ubiquity requires intervention in the form of antitrust laws at the same moment that the company is lobbying for what congressional staffers have dubbed “the Amazon amendment,” which will help...

About the Author

Scott Shane covers national security and the intelligence community for The New York Times.

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