Amazon Key aims to make parcel deliveries more secure, but this comes at a price to your home security and privacy (along with the $250 price tag). Homeowners will have to redefine their notion of trust if the service is to succeed, including their trust in Amazon as a company, the integrity of its drivers and ultimately in the assurance of a video recording of the entire visit.

Amazon recently unveiled its latest offering for Prime members, the Amazon Key service, which will soon be trialled in parts of the US.

What is Amazon Key?

The service allows Prime members to have their packages delivered safely inside their homes, with the help of a web-connected camera and smart door lock. Amazon hopes this will make deliveries more secure, reducing the risk of package theft, and ultimately be used for a wider range of services including letting cleaners or Airbnb tenants into your home.

Privacy and security concerns

Whilst the service seems to have transformative potential, perhaps following in the footsteps of Amazon Echo and Alexa, customers will have to make a trade-off between convenience and potential risks to home security and privacy. Following Amazon’s press release, Twitter users were quick to voice their concerns regarding the service, tweeting about the risk of burglaries and hacking.

Amazon appears to have tackled some of these issues, announcing that the service uses an encrypted authentication process whereby the package barcode is scanned, sending a request to the cloud, which then verifies that the time, place and package all line up. The web-connected camera then records as the door is unlocked by the smart-lock, allowing the customer to watch the parcel delivery in real-time. Peter Larsen, Vice President of Delivery Technology at Amazon explained “Now, Prime members can select in-home delivery and conveniently see their packages being delivered right from their mobile phones.”  Amazon are also offering to guarantee protection for customers in the event that one of its drivers damages or steals an item from inside a home or behaves improperly.

Trust as the key

Whilst Amazon has gone some way to addressing the obvious risks posed by Amazon Key, in order for the service to succeed homeowners will have to redefine their notion of trust, including their trust in Amazon as a company, the integrity of its drivers and ultimately in the assurance of a video recording of the entire visit. This redefinition of trust will have a bearing on the legalities of the technology, as the law will be forced to regulate a relationship “mediated almost entirely by technology”, as described by Ryan Calo a professor at University of Washington School of Law.

Homeowners will not only have to trust Amazon with their data, but also must bear the risk of third party exploitation of the service, either by hackers or law enforcement itself. Amazon have not yet addressed the question of law enforcement access to the cloud storage, which will do nothing to allay customer concerns over the privacy risk posed by the service. There will also be uneasiness amongst homeowners about images of the inside of their property being uploaded and stored on the cloud.


Whether or not the Amazon Key trial in the US is successful, we should brace ourselves as we delve deeper into a surveillance obsessed world in which our privacy and data are increasingly invaded and exploited, with potentially harmful effects in the physical world – albeit with the silver lining of stress-free online shopping.