Would You Be Willing to Give Amazon a ‘Key’ to Your Home?

Hard pass.

That was the overwhelming sentiment expressed on social media about Amazon’s debut of its new Amazon Key service. It seems folks have some deep concerns about handing a company the keys to their castle.

The idea is pretty simple and, apparently in Amazon’s estimation, solves a significant problem. Available to its Prime members, Amazon Key is a service that allows couriers to place your order just inside your front door rather than depositing it on your front porch, where it could be vulnerable to thieves, weather damage, or other mishaps.

In Amazon's defense, package theft is a significant problem, particularly during the holidays. Reports of package theft have soared as consumers have moved in droves to purchasing online rather than in brick-and-mortar establishments.

Is the answer to grant Amazon's couriers access to the inside of your home? The denizens of the interweb have their doubts. Many expressed similar concerns last September when Walmart announced its experimental service delivering groceries directly to select Silicon Valley customers' refrigerators.

Whether for groceries, golfing gear, or a great book, for $250 Amazon thinks it can solve your package theft problem. To do so, all the retailer needs is for you to:

• shut off your home security system on the day of a scheduled arrival
• make sure no animals have access to the front door
• give Amazon permission to unlock your home at will

"Wait, what was that last one again?" you may wisely ask. You read it properly; it wasn't a misprint. Amazon wants access to your home. The company promises to be careful, though, and will only give access to couriers it has "vetted" via background checks and driving records.

Not convinced? You're not alone. The response on social media to the new service was fast and furious, and it's still going strong — it's also hilarious. Run a search on the hashtag #AmazonKey for instant entertainment. Though there were some posts pointing out potentially great advantages to such a service, most were humorously focusing on some glaring flaws.

Here's how it works. Amazon ships you a smart lock for your front door, along with a cloud-connected camera. You can either set up the camera and key box yourself ("if you're handy," per Amazon), or have someone do it on your behalf.

You can choose between Kwikset and Yale for your smart lock. Though you can operate your smart lock with a traditional key, it also sports a remote feature that enables this new service to function. With a smart lock, you can trip the deadbolt via a code you enter — either directly from the keypad or over the internet via an app.

As a Prime member, if you buy the $250 Amazon Key package, you can select in-home delivery when you make a purchase. Once you do, Amazon will text you the morning of the scheduled delivery, and then again just before the courier will enter your home. The courier will knock first, requesting access, just in case you happen to be at home.

Amazon will remotely flip on the camera so you can watch the delivery live — or record to watch later— unlock the door, and then lock it again after the courier has deposited the order.

Amazon seems convinced that this procedure will go off without a hitch. Meanwhile, customers are envisioning shady delivery drivers casing their homes for later break-in, security breaches giving virtually any hacker access to their homes, toddlers (or pets) escaping willy-nilly, homeowners' mistaking a courier for an intruder, and other equally disturbing scenarios — potentially putting both customers and couriers at high risk.

Michele Blood is a freelance writer with a passion for children's literature. Based in Flemington, New Jersey, she leverages her background in psychology in her work for publishers, businesses and NPOs.

Last Modified: October 26, 2017, 3:02 pm

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