Amazon wants you to be a homeowner, but not just of any home. It wants you to own a home equipped with Amazon “Smart Home” products.
Amazon and five real estate companies—including industry giants like Coldwell Banker and Century 21—announced Tuesday that if people buy homes through Turnkey-approved real estate companies, they’ll be eligible for up to $5,000 in Amazon credits, which include free Amazon Smart Home products.
Customers will be given free Amazon Smart Home products like the Echo Dot and the Ring Doorbell camera. Amazon has been aggressively marketing Ring, which has formed a massive de facto privatized surveillance network. Dozens of police departments have “partnerships” with Ring, which makes it easy for them to request Ring footage from customers.
The collaboration, called Turnkey, is managed by the real estate company Realogy. Once users register using an online form, according to the Turnkey website, they’ll be paired to a real estate agent in their area.
"Amazon or Amazon-vetted professionals will install the smart products that are part of your Move-In Benefit," the Turnkey website says.
The bigger the value of the house you buy, the more Amazon products the homeowner is entitled to. For instance, a home purchase worth $150,000 to $399,000 entitles the buyer to a $450 Amazon credit and three Smart Home products. But a home purchase of more than $700,000 entitles a buyer to a $1,500 Amazon credit and 26 Smart Home products.
However, these smart home products come with a host of possible privacy issues. The Echo Dot, which passively listens to every detail of your life before being activated by a “wake word,” disturbed some customers with the news that human beings transcribe Echo Dot voice recordings, which are kept indefinitely in Amazon’s cloud storage. Amazon once sent 1,700 Echo Dot recordings to the wrong person. The Echo Dot for Kids has also been accused of violating the privacy rights of children, according to several civil rights groups.
"We’ve build Echo devices with multiple layers of privacy, including a microphone off button, clear visual indicators when the device is streaming audio to the cloud, and the ability for customers to review and delete their voice recordings at any time," an Amazon spokesperson said in an email.
Ring, meanwhile, has its own set of concerns. It has become somewhat notorious for encouraging paranoia and racial profiling on its accompanying app, and collaborating with local police departments on sting operations. An Amazon spokesperson noted in an email that user consent is required in order for law enforcement to obtain footage from Ring devices.
Turnkey is only available in 15 US cities. According to the Turnkey website, These cities include San Francisco, CA; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, IL; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Seattle, WA; Phoenix, AZ, Houston, TX; Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; Tampa, FL; Orlando, FL; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Charlotte, NC; Los Angeles, CA; and Sacramento, CA.
However, it’s worth noting that home ownership rates have been gradually declining since the recession, and people of home-buying age are often saddled with financial burdens like student debt and historically high health care expenses. This means that the most likely customers for Turnkey are richer and older than the average consumer.
Update: This article was updated to include comment from Amazon.