I recently read an article with a headline and inline catchphrases that obviously were used by the author to scare readers enough to check out the article. I saw no resources provided for the conclusions the author drew and thought I would investigate the story, and this is what I learned.
What Is Amazon Key
Amazon started a trial “key” program back in 2018. It is a device that allows an Amazon Driver access to a normally secure entrance. For example, when an Amazon driver arrives at a secured door, if no one answers it, then a central Amazon location will open it for the driver. A situation that on the surface is fraught with potential negatives. That is until you understand the entire process and you can’t understand the process unless you understand the types of keys available.
Amazon Key Is Not One Thing
There are several types. There is an Amazon Key for:
- Your home door
- Your garage door
- A gated community
- A secure building with one or more doors opening to a lobby
- Even directly to your car
I have listed them in the order that I consider to be the type that offers the most to least liability to the end user.
The Home Door Version
This version does have a ring of creepiness about it, but it does not have to. I am not sure I would be standing in line to get this version but more because of cost than security. The way it works is simple and gives the end user three options:
The first is “guest access”. It works with your smartphone and allows you to give specific individuals access. This may be anyone you choose, your mother, a dog walker, or neighbor that in the past might have had a spare key.
The second option is allowing Amazon to provide automatic key access to other services like Merry Maids and I assume other possible services willing to contract with Amazon.
The third and most controversial is automatic home delivery. When an Amazon driver arrives at your door, they will knock to gain access from someone in the house. If no one answers, Amazon will open the door for the driver.
Perhaps the best part of this option is that it provides a cloud-based CCTV camera that will be focused on your entrance from inside your residence. It will show the driver’s actions. They really only have permission to open the door and place your package inside your residence, near the door. Amazon also tries to alleviate your fears by strongly vetting its drivers and offer compensation for any damage caused by the driver. Unlike the scare stories out there, the driver is not allowed to suddenly use your bathroom, check your fridge, or peruse your home. I have not read of any abuse and even people who have canceled the service have mentioned the professionalism of the drivers.
There is more involved of course, but this article is intended to cover the fear factor and usefulness of the service and not necessarily the cost and is it worth it. It is worth mentioning that there is a steep cost for the home service, upwards to $300 which includes upgrades in the camera, length of storage, and access. I can appreciate that knowing my Amazon delivery is safe and secure within my house. That is worth something and not having to lug a large item inside provides a small benefit. However, of the four keys mentioned, the cost for this service is not worth it in my situation. What is more secure looking, the porch pirate invitation in the image below, or behind your door unseen?
Garage Door Key
This option appears to have more going for the end user and the cost is much less than a door key. In addition, Amazon is willing to sweeten the pot. Amazon will only partially open the owner’s garage door allowing the driver to place the package just inside the garage. A camera is optional for this version. According to CNBC, there are 1.7 million packages lost or stolen every day in the U.S. If I resided in an area with high package theft, I would consider a $70.00 annual fee to secure my delivery very reasonable.
To me, this option is a no-brainer. Your community gate will automatically open for Amazon drivers arriving at your gate. It will provide them with normal access to the streets within the community, not the homes. Gated HOA’s and residents readily give out the access code anyway. Even when a vehicle uses a valid code I have watched cars just follow them through the gates. Also, I know that UPS, Landscaping companies, multiple service companies, and resident’s aunts and uncles have access so why not give it to an Amazon driver. This option is not only free to the residents, but also to the HOA associated with the community.
Finally, I come to the option that was referred to by the scare article I first mentioned.
The author felt it was necessary to mention that the building owners don’t even have to inform tenants that they are giving Amazon automatic access to the “Lobby Door”. Drivers may enter the business without being buzzed in. It fails to mention that this only gives them access to the lobby or centralized mail drop area unless a resident is paying for the “Door Key” option. As with gated communities, someone always has access to the front door. Dog walkers, maids, repairmen, mailmen, and a host of others are buzzed in and have immediate access to the inside of the building. Some, less than honest, individuals will continue to ring residents until someone lets them in. At least with Amazon, there is a record.
Unlike the first three options, this one provides the most benefit for everyone involved. They are even offering building owners or managers $100 for permission in some cases.
Amazon claims there can be a significant amount of time lost on some occasions for the driver to find someone to gain access and even lost time waiting for a concierge or security to unlock the door. Allowing Amazon to open the door from a centralized location does not appear to increase risks from hackers as the article states. Hackers can hack a lock whether Amazon has access to it or not.
Amazon even has a program to have deliveries made right to the trunk of your car wherever you park, provided it is in a public place. Yes, even rush deliveries. You will receive a notification on your Amazon Key App within four hours. Check Amazon to see if your car is compatible.
Some concerns appear to circle around Amazon getting a competitive advantage by the building tenants choosing Amazon over another provider like Walmart, UPS, or FedEx because they already have faster access. I would rather believe my grandmother saying, “What is good for me does not necessarily mean it is bad for you”. I’m quite sure companies like Walmart and others can look out for themselves.
Some options do seem to provide a higher degree of risk but with a camera installed and Amazon paying for any breakage to items or damage to your home risk is minimized. The gains, on the other hand, are numerous. Drivers will be able to deliver packages faster. Trucks won’t have to be kept running, thereby saving gas and causing less pollution. Trucks having shorter obstruction times when a driver parks their truck where they shouldn’t. And of course, most of all having secure deliveries, all tips the scales towards Amazon Keys. As long as the first two options are “Optional” and not a mandatory requirement for Amazon Deliveries, I don’t see a problem. Do You?
I understand that there may be personal feelings involved with the idea of someone having access to your home and that of course, is your prerogative but I would love to know of any other negative issues I might not be aware of with this service, particularly if you have experienced them yourself.