Uh, Should We Be Worried About Amazon Key?

The prospects of Amazon's new service

BY JOSHUA SUTTER TECH October 30, 2017

With Amazon Key, Amazon continues its journey into our homes.

On Thursday, Amazon announced a new service they call Amazon Key. The service relies on Amazon’s Cloud Cam and the smart lock that’s compatible with it. The entire service revolves around the camera being connected to your Wi-Fi and sticks to Amazon’s slow and continuous journey into the smart home business. At the base level, the service allows couriers to unlock your front door and deliver packages inside your home. Because let’s be honest, leaving expensive packages outside homes has never been a fantastic model of secure transactions.

The venture of Amazon into the home business is a fascinating one. The Amazon Key service enters unfamiliar territory that really asks Prime customers to take another step in trusting Amazon. When this service becomes available on November 8th, customers will need to decide if they trust Amazon to keep an eye on their homes.

The other part of this that goes farther than a normal security company’s monitoring package is choosing to unlock your doors for complete strangers. While convenient, this is a big step for consumers to take.

The service seems to bank on the idea that the security pros of being able to allow trusted family members or friends into the house outweigh the con of allowing Amazon to keep an eye on things.

Examining the service itself is difficult. The possibilities for combining your door’s lock and Amazon’s services are extraordinary. Eventually having someone come cook, clean and prepare your home for a party while you’re at work may not seem crazy. You can just approve the service, unlock your front door, and you have a clean house and a nice meal. The possibilities are endless, but the cost for the freedom could be difficult to understand at first. 

Amazon is already savvy with their internal big data operations; Amazon Key is a massive step in the direction of big-data possibilities that isn’t possible to understand yet. The short-term goal of using Key for a more convenient experience may or may not work out, but with Alexa and their security offerings, Amazon has the potential to get inside your home in innovative ways. Understanding the habits of the consumer inside their home is a large and potentially intimidating step in big data.

The potential that this data would unlock for a company like Amazon is breathtaking from a purely analytical perspective, but terrifying from a consumer’s perspective. This service opens all sorts of doors that make it a much larger conversation than if people will use it or not. But it will surely be used by some of their massive user base. With around 85 million Prime members, Key will be snatched up by someone.

One of the difficult concerns with allowing a tech company into the home is the trust that must exist relating to the monitoring data that the company has by being within your home. You want to ensure that your data is indeed secure and not being used or sold for nefarious purposes. Data in this case being our conversations, video feeds, habits and whatever else can be monitored by proxy of having devices capable of listening and watching our daily lives. We seem to have crossed the threshold of being OK with a smartphone and TV constantly being connected to the internet with microphones available constantly.

However, putting the locks to our home in that ballpark is yet another step toward the fully autonomous home that is both exciting and terrifying. Even if you trust Amazon enough to throw Alexa in every room and use their new Key service, the potential for hackers must be in the forefront of consumer’s minds.

As more and more devices in the home become connected to the internet, we’re not only trusting that the company using the data for our benefit is trustworthy, we’re trusting that they’re secure. Consider hacks on large companies—like Equifax and Yahoo—if you default to believing that large companies are completely safe. Granted, Amazon is lightyears ahead of most companies in terms of cloud security. But on the off chance they’re vulnerable—because every company is vulnerable somewhere—the data that would be vulnerable isn’t just a credit card number or an email address, it’s voice and video data from inside our homes. As well as access to our front door thanks to Amazon Key.

This isn’t meant to be a fearful consideration of an autonomous future. In fact, I’m a fan of the future of the autonomous home. Amazon Key as well as Amazon’s other home services are fascinating. But an option for the more cautious consumers needs to be available. Because as the battle for growing predictive data operations continues in the tech industry, security remains the biggest concern. Amazon’s newest service is something to watch purely because of the big-picture implications that it leads to and the questions that it poses. For the short term, the question is if you’ll trust Amazon to play a key part in the security of your home. In the long term, it asks more ethical questions about a company’s relationship with its consumer. 

JOSHUA SUTTER

is a full-time IT Engineer that has a passion for writing, he currently write for SB Nation, Fansided, and the Unprofessionals. You can learn more about him here: https://joshuaesutter.com.

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