Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has warned staff not to be complacent, claiming the firm "is not too big to fail".

At an all-hands meeting last Thursday in Seattle, days before the firm announced the winners of its HQ2 contest, Bezos was asked about the recent failures of giant retailers like Sears, reports the Daily Mail.

"Amazon is not too big to fail," Bezos said, in a recording of the meeting CNBC said it had heard.

"In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years."

Advertisement

Bezos told the meeting the key to survival is to "obsess over customers."

"If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end," he said.

"We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible."

However, Bezos said he had noticed one thing about firms that do last far longer.

"Most of the companies that are multi-hundred year old companies are breweries," he said with a laugh. "It's very interesting — I'm not sure what that says about society."

The warning comes as Amazon prepares for a record holiday season.

Amazon is expected to capture 48 per cent of all online sales in the US this year, up from 43 per cent in 2017, according to eMarketer.

On Tuesday Amazon announced the location of its new headquarters – one in Queens, New York, and another in Arlington, Virginia, causing outrage among many over the subsidies offered to cities in the 'beauty pageant'.

Advertisement

However, it is facing increased competition and is embroiled in a row with Donald Trump over taxes and use of the US Postal Service.

"I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election," President Trump recently tweeted.

"Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the US), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!"

In June, hundreds of Amazon employees penned a letter addressed to Bezos, titled "We Won't Build It," calling on him to end Amazon's Rekognition contracts with the police.

The letter detailed concerns around how the technology would be deployed, as well as the possibility for bias, citing "historic militarisation of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses."

Employees also urged Amazon to end its relationship with Palantir, a controversial data company.

It comes as Amazon has defended its Rekognition tech, alongside growing concerns from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Amazon is also dealing with a backlash from its own employees.

Pressure has been mounting for Amazon to cancel its contracts with ICE and law enforcement agents, which allow them to test out the facial recognition technology.

The ACLU claims the software guide for the AI "reads like a user manual for authoritarian surveillance."

But Amazon said "quality of life would be much worse" if technologies such as this were blocked because of fears they may be misused.

It has pointed out that its tool has helped find lost children in the past, and claims it has great potential for fighting crime in future.

Amazon Rekognition has been used for a number of positive purposes already, the company claims.

This includes using the program to find children lost in amusement parks and identifying people who have been abducted.

However, Amazon is drawing the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy advocates over the tool.

First released in 2016, Amazon has since been selling it on the cheap to several police departments around the US, listing the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon and the city of Orlando, Florida among its customers.

Amazon offers the technology to law enforcement for just US$6 ($8.72) to US$12 a month.

Deputies in Oregon had been using Rekognition about 20 times per day - for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage.

Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone's life is in danger.

"We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner," said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

"We want our local community to be aware of what we're doing, how we're using it to solve crimes - what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not."