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Amazon Wants the Keys to Your House

The company announced Amazon Key Wednesday, which lets its couriers enter your home.

by Louise Matsakis
Oct 25 2017, 2:45pm

Image: Shutterstock/Amazon / Composition: Louise Matsakis

Amazon has grown into a demanding corporation over the last year. It wants your local government to subsidize it with tax credits. It wants to put a camera inside your bedroom. It wanted (and acquired) Whole Foods' more than 450 stores. Now, it wants the keys to your house.

Amazon Key is a new service unveiled Wednesday that allows Amazon couriers to open your door and leave packages inside, ostensibly so they don't get stolen from your front porch. The move is Amazon's latest attempt to fully optimize its Prime subscription service, which offers free two-day shipping in the United States as well as other perks. I imagine one day an Amazon delivery robot will drop off your Prime package or Whole Foods order directly to your bed, no need to get up.

Amazon Key relies on Amazon's new Cloud Cam and a compatible smart lock. It's not the first company to develop a smart lock that can be unlocked remotely. When a courier arrives at a house with a package, they scan its barcode, which sends a request to Amazon. If the package is approved, the Cloud Cam begins recording, and your door unlocks. The package is dropped off, the courier leaves, and the door is relocked behind them. The customer then gets a notification that they received a delivery, along with a video of the courier dropping it off. What could go wrong?

At this point, we don't have details about Amazon Key's security features, but we do know it's utilizing the Zigbee wireless protocol commonly used in internet-of-things devices. Smart locks using other protocols have been found to be insecure in the past. Last year for example, two security researchers demonstrated how easy it is to hack into smart locks. At the annual DEF CON hacking conference, they tested 16 different Bluetooth-enabled locks, and found that 75 percent were vulnerable.

Amazon Key as well as the Cloud Cam are the latest in a series of home devices developed by Amazon in recent years. The corporation is competing with the likes of Google and Apple to optimize your entire life. The two new devices unveiled today join Amazon's growing list of offerings, including a line of Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers, and a smart camera device called the Echo Look. The Cloud Cam will be able to integrate with other Amazon smart devices, according to the company.

Of course, Amazon has plans to use its key system for more than just delivering packages. It ultimately wants you to use it to order services like dog walking and cleaning through Amazon Home & Business Services. Amazon wants to be part of every single aspect of your life. By setting up a camera at your front door, it's setting itself up nicely to do just that.

If Amazon records who and when you invite into your home, it's inherently learning more about your intimate life and habits than ever before. It can then leverage that data to optimize your existence even further.

Amazon Key and the Cloud Cam will be sold as a bundle for $249.99, which includes installation. For now, it will only be available in 37 American cities, in places where Amazon Logistics handles deliveries (it's not allowing UPS other logistics companies to use the system for now). Prime customers can preorder the camera starting Wednesday, and the key system starting November 8. That is, if you trust Amazon to enter your home.

Update 10/25/17 4:57 PM: This post has been updated with more information about the wireless protocol Amazon Key utilizes.

Got a tip? You can contact this reporter securely on Signal at +1 201-316-6981, or by email at louise.matsakis@vice.com

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