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Reporter Regrets Letting Amazon's Delivery People Into His House (washingtonpost.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: Washington Post reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler describes his short-lived experience with "Amazon Key", a $250 smart lock system with a security camera that grants Amazon's delivery people access to your home. The lock sounds "like R2-D2 with constipation," and at one point it actually jammed (though his persistent delivery person eventually got it working properly). The unlocking of the door triggers a live video feed of the delivery -- which is also stored in a private archive online -- plus an alert to your phone -- and the Post's reporter writes that "The biggest downsides to the experience haven't been the strangers -- it's been Amazon."

They missed their delivery windows four out of eight times, and though the packages all arrived eventually, all four were late by a least a day. But his larger issue is that Amazon "wants to draw you further into an all-Amazon world... Now Amazon wants to literally own your door, so it can push not just packages but also services that come through it, like handymen, dog-walkers, groceries, you name it." His ultimate question? "Who's really being locked in?"

The Post's reporter notes that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, "but I review all tech the same." He did identify some advantages to the $250 smart lock system -- the door can now also be unlocked with the Amazon Key app, and he can even share that access with his friends by giving them a special access code.

But he also notes that security researchers discovered a way to freeze Amazon's security camera, potentially allowing a rogue delivery person to lurk in your house. And all things considered, it was apparently all too creepy. "After two weeks, my family voted to remove the Amazon Key smart lock and take down the camera."
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Reporter Regrets Letting Amazon's Delivery People Into His House

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  • by kencurry ( 471519 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @12:41PM (#55706849)
    My current pet peeve is getting into delivery race-condition. They leave a note a the door - someone must sign but no option to sign and leave at front door? So then you miss day two, and when you get home from work you call, only to find that package won't be at local facility until after 8 blah blah... Spent extra for overnight shipping and you don't get package for three days.
    • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @12:45PM (#55706867) Homepage Journal

      You sound petulant over it. 'Signature required' means someone has to physically be there to sign for the package. It doesn't mean you can just sign a slip of paper. Anyone could do that. If you're having consistent problems with delivery then perhaps you *should* start having them delivered directly to the deop where you can pick them up at your leisure.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @12:48PM (#55706879)

      Solution: Put a close-to-lock box on your front porch. Then go to Amazon, click on "track this order" and then click on the signature waiver.

      • by mikael ( 484 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @01:28PM (#55707085)

        That's the best solution. One apartment complex where I stayed had this system. There were a communal set of lock boxes. If postal service had to deliver a parcel, they put in the lock box and the key in your locked mailbox. Then when you used the communal lockbox, the key could be inserted but only removed by the mailperson.

        Unfortunately, in the UK, this won't work. One home owner installed his own close-to-lock box. Couriers from various companies then started using it without his permission as a "safe place" for other people to collect their parcel deliveries. He had to remove the lock box due to the hassle of strangers coming round and hammering on his door wanting their items back.

        Leave-with-a-neighbor doesn't work either. I had my items delivered to an elderly lady who then guessed who the items were for and gave them to another neighbor who then went on holiday for two weeks.

        • He should have put a sign. "Packages not intended for $ADDRESS will be discarded."
          • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

            Or '...will incur a $100 handling fee payable before delivery.' Or whatever price you would consider an acceptable compensation for your inconvenience. If somebody complains, tell them 'policy is policy'.

        • Unfortunately, in the UK, this won't work. One home owner installed his own close-to-lock box. Couriers from various companies then started using it without his permission as a "safe place" for other people to collect their parcel deliveries. He had to remove the lock box due to the hassle of strangers coming round and hammering on his door wanting their items back.

          Technological solution: install an array of boxes for the others, charge rent

        • Leave-with-a-neighbor doesn't work either. I had my items delivered to an elderly lady who then guessed who the items were for and gave them to another neighbor who then went on holiday for two weeks.

          That sounds like a very VERY specific failure mechanism for leave-with-a-neighbour. In general this system actually works very well nearly all the time.

      • I sometimes have packages delivered to work. A lot of companies allow this, especially around holiday times, because it means fewer workers are off standing in line at trying to receive or send packages.

    • My take from your story is that you didn't really need overnight shipping, and you even paid for it without knowing a signature would be required the next day. This makes the irony of your sig even more funny.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you need to make sure the package is secure you can have it shipped to an Amazon Locker.

    • I just have it sent to work. The mail room sends me an e-mail when it arrives.
    • Tell them to leave it at a local pick-up. I do that and just pick it up on the way home.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      I don't drive, so when this happened to me it was extremely frustrating. To make matters worse, there was a UPS store close by that was willing to accept delivery and hold it for me, but the USP terminal wasn't willing to ship it to them, even for extra payment. And there was no transit to where the UPS terminal was. And how long would I need to pay a taxi to sit there waiting?

      I nearly said "fuck that package, I'll do without" without even knowing what was in it. (It was a present from a relative.) For

  • Stupid Article (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SmaryJerry ( 2759091 )
    Nothing happened worth regretting. He pretty much just doesn't want to give amazon control to his lock because paranoia but that's the service he signed up for!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Translation: 'I have no self awareness and concern for my privacy. I just want my stuff, I ordered it and it should magically appear on my kitchen table'

      Implication: You are immature, narcissist or an idiot. Please visit the AirBnB down the street with the hidden cameras for validation of your condition.

      • The title makes it seem like something bad happened. Nothing bad happened. He knew exactly what the service was before he ordered it so why regret it based on on paranoia?
    • I suspect that what really happened is that he started with his conclusion and then did the review. This seems to frequently be the case in tech reviews.
    • And paranoia in the case of Amazon is well deserved.

  • ...what possibly could go wrong ???
    • ...what possibly could go wrong ???

      In this case, nothing. The reporter just doesn't like the concept of in-home delivery, signed up for it anyway, and then wrote an article about how he doesn't like the concept because it was "creepy", even though in practice it worked out fine.

      • The reporter took too long to work out what many people here already know; that letting a person into your private residence really does feel scummy.
        • The same people complaining about this think nothing of staying in a hotel or motel where a low paid maid enters what is essentially their bedroom. If you ask me it would be more creepy to be the delivery guy, especially given what one is likely to see if they have to enter the homes of some of the people posting on Slashdot.
        • letting a person into your private residence really does feel scummy.

          My housekeeper comes twice a month while I am at work, and there is no camera watching her except at the entry. I have private documents in my home office, so I lock the door to that room, and she doesn't go in there. It felt "creepy" for the first month, then I got used to it.

          I have no need for Amazon's in-home delivery, but if I used it, I am sure I would get over the "creepiness" factor very quickly.

          This reporter may feel uncomfortable about someone coming into his home, but his personal feelings are n

          • You know who your housekeeper is. You interview her before you use her services. Or do you let a different housekeeper in twice a month, I would find that creepy too.
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @12:47PM (#55706877)
    for Amazon to just leave the package at the customer's local post office or UPS office, or similar package handlers, then they could just go to the postoffice with a photo ID or driver's licence proving who they are and then pick up the package at their convenience, there is no way in hell am i going to let amazon or anyone else have access to my house like that
    • then they could just go to the postoffice with a photo ID or driver's licence proving who they are and then pick up the package at their convenience

      As long as "at your convenience" means between the hours of 8;30am and 5:30pm. If you are someone who actually has to work for a living, that's probably not your definition of "convenient".

      • As long as "at your convenience" means between the hours of 8;30am and 5:30pm.

        Nope. Most Amazon Locker [amazon.com] locations are accessible 24/7.

        The closest to my house is inside a gas station convenience store that never closes.

        • The nearest one to my house is 38 miles away. Not exactly what I call convenient.

          Better for some would be the UPS store, but the nearest one is 12 miles from me.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why don't UPS and Fedex deliver early or late, from 6:00am to 8:00am or 6:00pm to 9pm? Then we would have no need for stupid keys or using some other store to pick up. Internet delivery has been around for almost 30 years and they can't get even this simple detail right.

        • I've been around and around with UPS about this. If it's a package that has to be signed for, they'll deliver when I'm not there. If it's a package that doesn't have to be signed for, it could very well be 10:30 pm before it's delivered. They just won't do it any different.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          (earlier AC FedEx driver)

          1) Freight doesn't get there that early. Typically our freight gets in-station at 6:45am, plus add sort time of an hour and a half and we are leaving the building around 8:00-8:15am. You can pay for "First Overnight" service, which rides in its own separate can, can have a commitment time as early as 8:00am if you are really close to the station however the cost starts at ~$60 for an envelope.

          2) Delivery drivers are people too, with families and lives. Additionally, once it g
        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Why don't UPS and Fedex deliver early or late, from 6:00am to 8:00am or 6:00pm to 9pm? Then we would have no need for stupid keys or using some other store to pick up. Internet delivery has been around for almost 30 years and they can't get even this simple detail right.

          They can. You just have to pay for the service. Because the drivers are human and want to get their shift done and return home to their families, so the extended hours option means paying someone overtime for it.

          Oh, and before you say "but w

    • > >so it can push not just packages but also services that come through it, like handymen, dog-walkers, groceries, you name it

      >no way in hell am i going to let amazon or anyone

      Here's a new take. If more people are being granted access to the domicile, why not have amazon provide the people that you really want in - security, housekeepers, cooks, babysitters, plumbers, Jehovah's witnesses (well maybe not that one), etc. You might not be able to afford to give any one of these full time work, but if

      • > >so it can push not just packages but also services that come through it, like handymen, dog-walkers, groceries, you name it

        >no way in hell am i going to let amazon or anyone

        Here's a new take. If more people are being granted access to the domicile, why not have amazon provide the people that you really want in - security, housekeepers, cooks, babysitters, plumbers, Jehovah's witnesses (well maybe not that one),

        Why wouldn't I want my relatives to come in?

  • They need this but instead of access to your house it needs to access a large lock box.
    • that would work for some, just build or buy a box that is anchored to the ground so nobody can walk off with it, something made of steel plate and anchored in to about 1500 pounds of portland cement
    • People don't need this. It's the years 2017, so how did we manage to survive so long without this service before?

  • Better solution would be a secure Bin or Box that you place outside possibly next to your Mailbox or Combined with it.

    I have WAY fewer issues giving the access code to a box outside.

  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @01:24PM (#55707069)

    I'm writting this as someone who would NEVER install a service like this, but it's quite clear that Geoffrey, the author of the piece, had already decided what to think of the service previous to reviewing it - very bad practice.

    Out of all his complaints, the majority of it is due to early adopter grievances or unrelated crap.
    For instance, he complains about not getting the delivery on the day promised. This isn't due to Amazon Key, it's due to the delivery service itself being late. Would installing Key change the speed in which packages would come? Doesn't sound like so.

    On another part he talks about his door not being appropriate, having trouble with installation, and the door almost locking delivery service outside. Honestly, I think this is something people should expect - not all doors are made equal, not all of them are in a good enough shape to install electronic locks, and not all of them will work perfectly outright - this is a problem most electronic key installations could have.

    Then he goes on a complete tirade about walled gardens and whatnot which should be quite obvious to anyone purchasing something like this - of course you are increasing the likelihood of getting Amazon stuff if you are buying a system from them to get access into your home. Much like the Amazon Dash Buttons and whatnot, it's meant to make it more convenient to get stuff from them. More importantly though, since you can share the key to others, this should stop no one from getting services from another company and just sending a temporary key to them instead.

    Anyways, like I said, I'd never get something like this even if it was available for me, because the ammount of convenience it'd give me is not enough to counterweight privacy worries plus the fact that I'd never install IoT devices in my home without very strong justification - it's yet another thing connected to the Internet that will obviously need constant updates, maintenance and whatnot.

    But there are legitimate reasons to have something like this, and they were mildly covered in the piece. Homes with people with limited mobility. People who are never at home and already had purchases stolen from their front porches. People who were already hiding keys in places for delivery people to get in because they have no other option.

    I don't think anyone has to like this thing, quite the opposite. It's a system I'd only recommend for people who has had an unsolvable problem regarding product delivery for years. But the review was kinda crap.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      He was probably assigned to do it, and, yes, had decided it was a bad idea before it was assigned to him...but he didn't want to turn down the assignment.

  • Took two weeks to sour on and remove the camera? Because the way we are headed it will take twice as long with the 2027 camera in our new smart underwear.
  • Seriously, who in their right mind thinks it's okay to hang your home's security on an IoT device operated by random strangers who are allowed to enter your home?

    This is nothing more than a disaster waiting to happen. Wait until the first burglaries, robberies, home invasions, rapes, and murders result from this brain-dead idea.

    Will Amazon issue a press release that says, "Whoops, sorry about that- we didn't mean to let your whole family be murdered by a random nutjob who spoofed the access code to your hom

  • Let Amazon place a sturdy 2'x3' steel locker somewhere on your property. This won't solve all of the unattended delivery issues but it will prevent random fuckers from being able spoof an access code and enter your home while you're not there.

  • No, THIS IS NOT WHAT THE REPORTER REGRETS.

    He regrets the fact that some of Amazon's delivery attempt windows during this busy season didn't line up with actual time-at-the-door. He regrets that Amazon's supported hardware doesn't yet interact well with some other systems/apps/devices he'd like to use to police his front door (like, he can't YET easily let his dog walker use an app to gain entrance unless that dog walker uses Amazon to cashier their dog walking service, etc).

    To the contrary, he thinks
  • It's a service. Someone people need it. Some don't. If it's not for you, that's fine. Stop whining.

    I love this brilliant insight "wants to draw you further into an all-Amazon world..." Well no shit Sherlock. Name one megacompany that doesn't want to draw you further into their world.

  • The article itself is crap.

    The whole reason for this is neighborhoods where people will steal things from your porch which fortunately I have no problem with and also weather for people not fortunate enough to live in southern California. I do like the amazon storage lockers at the 7-11 down the street and use it simply for a certain level of privacy. At the house I currently reside in if I really wanted I could build a bolted down locker of my own while using amazons keybox. I can also imagine using such

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock AT poetic DOT com> on Saturday December 09, 2017 @06:33PM (#55708357)

    I'm late to this party and I hope my question isn't redundant. (I'm asking for a friend)

    What happens when you ARE home during the delivery? You might be relaxing in front of the big screen enjoying some righteous pron and getting your wrist exercise for the day. You might be doing your cosplay version of Princess Leia. You might be entertaining the stud next door through the back door. Or you might just be lying in your upchuck in a drunken stupor on the floor.

    Not too worried about a delivery when I'm *not* home.

    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      I'm late to this party and I hope my question isn't redundant. (I'm asking for a friend)

      What happens when you ARE home during the delivery? You might be relaxing in front of the big screen enjoying some righteous pron and getting your wrist exercise for the day. You might be doing your cosplay version of Princess Leia. You might be entertaining the stud next door through the back door. Or you might just be lying in your upchuck in a drunken stupor on the floor.

      Not too worried about a delivery when I'm *not* home.

      Every time I've had a party, there were party crashers because I had great parties and people could see what was happening.
      The trailer park people down the street had parties that few would go to, unless tied up or roofied, because people could see what was happening.
      The answer to your "what would happen" question is in there.

    • Urm, 2 points for unpleasant-scenario imagination, 0 points for not thinking to deadbolt your doors when home...

       

  • shit idea to begin with.
  • Architecture is still stuck in 30s. It is so easy to build an apartment or the whole house with an inbuilt system for internet deliveries.

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