Unpacking paranoia: Amazon Key shouldn’t scare us so much


Nathan Stevens

Last month, I signed up for Amazon Prime, joining the 85 million other Amazon Prime members for one simple reason — I hate waiting for shipping. Has anyone ever really received their package in “five to seven business days?” I sure haven’t.

So when I heard Amazon was testing a service to make shipping easier in the Bay Area, I was ecstatic. That was until I read more about it. The new system, called Amazon Key, made headlines when it was announced on October 25, although probably not for the reasons Amazon was hoping.

Amazon Key is an innovative and optional service that goes live on November 8 in 37 cities around the U.S, including the San Francisco Bay Area. Basically, it allows whoever delivers your package to drop it off inside your house instead of on the porch, even when you’re not at home. At first, I was taken aback. To me, that sounded like a horrifically unsafe idea and something I would never use. However, it’s more complicated than I had thought.

Despite some bad press, I felt it was worth looking into. It turns out that Amazon Key is more than just a delivery service, and Amazon is doing a lot to ensure customers have the utmost security when opting to use it.

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Amazon Key requires both an Amazon Prime membership and an Amazon Key Kit, which costs 250 dollars and consists of an encrypted security camera and compatible smart lock for your door. When the delivery driver scans your package, it sends an alert to your phone and to Amazon’s cloud, unlocking the smart lock and turning on the security camera which records the whole thing, according to Amazon’s website. A lot more thought went into their service than I had originally thought, but that still wasn’t enough to make me feel totally at ease about the service.


The idea is to make delivering packages to customers both easier and more secure, significantly reducing the risk of theft by not leaving the package outside. I totally understand why people would be cautious about using this, since it doesn’t exactly scream “safe,” but with a little reflection, my opinion on Amazon Key shifted.


I consider myself a pretty stubborn person, so I didn’t ever expect to change my mind about Amazon Key being too risky to use. However, there was one news piece in particular that ended up doing just that.
I was watching Good Morning America with my mom when a story came on about Amazon Key. It was nothing too special, going over the details in ways I had seen before. But after the segment, the newscasters debated for a couple minutes about the ethics and safety of the whole thing, and they brought up a very good point.
What makes this any different than Uber or Airbnb? All these services require trusting strangers in a very big way just to make life a little more convenient. I thought about it for a while, and I can’t find any real reason Amazon Key seems scarier besides my own paranoia. It’s not like this delivery person is going to walk into your house and rob you on camera, just like your Uber driver isn’t going to drop you off in the Sahara Desert, hopefully.

Technology is always changing, and we’re always adapting to that change one new invention at a time. I’ll be the first to admit that change can be scary, but change is also necessary. Without innovation, we wouldn’t have smartphones or laptops or any of the other services we’ve become accustomed to using.

So for now, I’ll embrace Amazon Key and any other new service that others might be hesitant to use. Not because I’m oblivious to the security issues of the 21st Century, but because that never really goes away. Unless you live in the woods, walled off from society, there’s no way to avoid the risks that come with all the tech we now depend on. What we can avoid, however, is having to wait so long for our packages to arrive. Seriously, what gives?