Nov 10, 2017

Amazon Key: stroke of genius or worst idea ever?

By Seb Peltekian

(Update) Soon after we finalized this draft, Wired published a report that third-party tools can actually disable your Amazon Cloud Cam.  If this happens, and Amazon doesn't send you a notification in time, you'll just see a static image of a closed door, for example, while a nefarious delivery driver walks out of your house with your TV. Amazon is reportedly working on sending notifications more quickly when your camera goes offline.

Amazon's newest in-home delivery service, Amazon Key, became available on November 8th to Amazon Prime subscribers. Amazon shoppers don't appear to be giving Key a very friendly welcome—mostly because allowing random people into your house when you aren't home is a chilling prospect, even if they're just dropping off goods you ordered on Amazon.

Amazon Key: convenient, but a little creepy

Here's a quick primer on how Amazon Key works. First, if you're eligible for Amazon Key, you purchase a Key In-Home Kit, which gives you either a Kwikset or Yale smart lock and up to three Amazon Cloud Cams. 

Once you install your devices, Amazon can send you a morning alert when you have packages arriving that day. You're also given a four-hour window for when a driver might drop off your stuff.  If you aren't home—and the delivery person is supposed to knock—then they can enter a code on your smart lock, open your front door, and place your package inside your house. You can live-stream the delivery via your Amazon Cloud Cam or watch a recording later.

Assuming your delivery driver isn't a horrible person, Phandroid found that the entire process works pretty seamlessly.

Amazon's Cloud Cam—just an ordinary home camera?

While Amazon's Cloud Cam can work in conjunction with Amazon Key, its not exclusive; the camera can also serve as the cornerstone of a simple home-security setup, allowing you to view what's going on at your house or apartment at a moment's notice. (In the dark, too.)

Amazon can alert you to tune in whenever the Cloud Cam detects motion, and you can watch clips of what transpired to determine which pet is to blame for the mess you came home to. (You can even yell at your pets in real-time, thanks to the Cloud Cam's two-way audio functionality.) 

For some, however, having an always-on camera feels a bit unnerving.

MundaneMatt: "I don't know about you, but I don't want security cameras inside my home. I don't. I like my privacy. I like to walk around naked. I don't want anybody to hack the Cloud and take photos of me..."

As for that smart lock...

Like the Amazon Cloud Cam, the Kwikset or Yale smart lock you receive in the Amazon Key In-Home Kit also has other capabilities. For example, you can give assign special codes to guests so you no longer have to answer the door when they come over. That's useful if you take a trip and want somebody to check your mail or feed your pets, and you don't want to deal with the hassle of making a spare key.

Still, the general concept of a smart lock—and whether its truly more secure than a simple mechanical deadbolt lock—certainly keeps security experts buzzing.

If a dog bites, is an Amazon Key owner liable?

Some concerns about Amazon Key are easy—letting strangers into your home, allowing a corporate giant access to your digital keys and a live feed of your place, et cetera. But an even bigger, untested issue with the Amazon Key is liability. Who's to blame when unexpected things happen during an Amazon Key delivery?

For example, what if the delivery person doesn't close the door entirely after they leave and your house gets broken into? What if your dog gets out and runs away?  What if your dog bites the person who entered your house to deliver a package?  Is it worth taking a potential bump to your insurance rate for the convenience of Amazon Key?

Amazon does offer a "Happiness Guarantee," which states that if the delivery was "not completed to your satisfaction, or your product or property was damaged as a direct result of the delivery," then Amazon will try to rectify their mistakes if you file a claim and provide sufficient proof. That still sounds a little nebulous to us, though—especially if you're dealing with a lost pet as a result of a botched delivery.