• What might go wrong if you give Amazon a key to your house, according to some experts

    By: DEBBIE COCKRELL, The News Tribune

    Updated:

    Some people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of Amazon’s newly announced Key service, which allows for deliveries inside Prime customers’ homes.

    “Overnight, nearly 62,000 posts mention ‘Amazon Key,’” the social media analytics firm Talkwalker said in news release titled, “Social Media Says No to Amazon Key.”

    “And the overwhelming majority of the posts seem to indicate that this isn’t Amazon’s best idea ever.”

    The Washington Post offered a similar take with the headline: “Amazon Key is Silicon Valley at its most out-of-touch.”

    “Many observers have noted that the most common proposals seem to fall into the category of ‘things that I, a 25-year-old man, wish that I could still get my mother to do for me,’ ” wrote opinion columnist Christine Emba.

    And that’s in a newspaper owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

    The program is being rolled out in select cities starting Wednesday (Nov. 8). Most of Tacoma and immediate suburban areas all the way south through Lakewood are eligible, though not yet Enumclaw to the east or Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula across the Tacoma Narrows. (You can check your ZIP code at Amazon’s online Key page.)

    The starter kit, at just under $250, includes an indoor security camera and a smart lock to replace your deadbolt and to allow one-time access for a delivery inside your home.

    “We’ll send notifications the morning of delivery, just before, and right after,” Amazon says in its promotional material. “Watch your delivery happening live or view a video clip of it later.”

    So, what could go wrong? Some angles to consider:

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    CRIME
    Let’s start with property crimes, which have been on the rise in Tacoma and Pierce County since 2013. That includes porch pirates and the battles to deter them, which have had their day in the headlines.

    So, allowing access to your home eliminates that problem, right?

    “It’s an arrow in a quiver, and while there are aspects that are fascinating and makes things a lot more convenient, it still comes with certain concerns,” said consumer advocate Adam Levin, chairman and founder of CyberScout and author of “Swiped.”

    Levin spoke recently to The News Tribune in a phone interview from New York.

    “Yes, you can have a camera and a lock that works remotely, and a person heavily vetted, but think about the time it takes to open and close a door. ... What if there’s something else they’re looking for?”

    And, it doesn’t have to be the delivery person looking. It could be someone walking by, or someone who enters later if somehow the lock doesn’t work, Levin noted.

    Also a possibility, from Levin’s point of view: “How many times have we seen good people in extortion plots or bribed?”

    So, there’s always a possibility of compromising situations among delivery people.

    But, Amazon seems to say in its explainer of the new service, you don’t have that problem now with those same delivery people.

    “Amazon Key in-home deliveries are carried out by some of the same professional drivers who you trust to deliver your Amazon orders today,” it states. “These individuals are thoroughly vetted, with comprehensive background checks and motor vehicle records reviews.”

    PRIVACY AND LIABILITY
    What about privacy? Since geofencing allows merchants to push notifications to your phone, based on location, what will Amazon now know about you with this system?

    Obviously, when you’re not home, and when you’ve turned off your alarm system. And, for the system to work, they have the one-time access to your door lock.

    “Remember that with convenience you are in most cases giving up security,” Levin said.

    He recommends everyone do a gut check before deciding on buying the service.

    “What’s your threshold?” he asked. “How much privacy are you willing to give up, and will you be a nervous wreck and is it worth being a nervous wreck?”

    What about from an insurance standpoint?

    “While this service is marvelous for preventing packages from being stolen from doorsteps, it presents a number of new challenges,” said Michael Macauley, CEO of Quadrant Information Services. Based in Pleasanton, California, the company has analyzed the insurance market for 27 years and provides pricing and rate analytics.

    What happens if a delivery person is hurt in your home? In the future, this might be a bigger issue for insurers, and in turn, you, Macauley said in response to questions from The News Tribune via email.

    “With technologies such as Amazon Key,” he wrote, “slipping on a item on your floor by the delivery carrier may happen and it is even videotaped.”

    Under current polices, the claim is covered, Macauley noted. “However, in the future, carriers will most probably itemize the exposure and even exclude them,” meaning that coverage by your insurer might disappear.

    PETS AND SECURITY
    There are other considerations, such as pets.

    From Amazon’s promo page: “We do not recommend using in-home delivery if your pet can access the front door on delivery day.”

    Translation: Don’t call them when Fido makes a run for it during your Viva paper towels delivery.

    And, again, there could be unintended consequences with insurance rates.

    “Pet mishaps with entering a home is a very large exposure for an insurance carrier that will be met by insurance carriers increasing premiums or excluding coverages,” Macauley noted.

    BUYING VS. WAIT AND SEE
    In Levin’s view: “This is a grand experiment and Amazon may prove they are right.”

    On the flip side, “ One thing we’ve learned is assume everything could go wrong and work backwards from there.

    “If they deliver a box to your porch and you don’t get it, that’s on them. But it’s your problem if they go in and something goes wrong because you may not be able to prove anything.”

    Plus online systems can be hacked, he noted.

    “They can say, ‘Hey, you saw the door open and close, you saw the package there and it’s in your house.’ What if someone alters your security footage?”

    Macauley shares those concerns.

    “There are just so many things that can go wrong with this service – I’d advise waiting to see how it rolls out ... before jumping on the service.”

    Amazon, on its website, notes that safeguards are in place for its service, which comes with what the company calls a “Happiness Guarantee.”

    If something happens, though, your happiness might be limited.

    As Amazon’s site explains the guarantee: “You can file a claim for an Amazon Key in-home delivery when all of the following apply: The in-home delivery was not completed to your satisfaction, or your product or property was damaged as a direct result of the in-home delivery; and the in-home delivery was completed within the last 30 days.

    In addition: “For all claims, we may require photographs, videos, documents or other proof of your claim.”

    Ultimately, to go with Amazon Key or not, it may depend on your own personality type: early adopter vs. next-generation user.

    “There are those who must be the first kid on the block and others much happier to see how it works,” Levin said. “It could be the best thing since sliced bread.”

    But, he added, “you may want someone else slicing the bread first.”
     

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