Amazon wants to move in with you: Teitel
The driving force behind products like Amazon Key is customers sacrificing privacy for convenience. And corporations like Amazon want a monopoly on convenience.
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Amazon would like you to open your home to strangers. Not in the charitable, Thanksgiving dinner sense, but in the sense that if you’re a woman living alone, you might feel compelled to sleep with a hockey stick under your bed.
This week, the tech giant announced plans to launch a new package delivery service called Amazon Key that will grant Amazon employees permission and access to enter customers’ homes in order to deliver packages they’ve ordered online.
The benefit to this service, which operates via security camera and a “smart lock” provided by Amazon itself, is that the packages you order online will not be stolen from your front door or otherwise misplaced.
However, what the company might have failed to consider, judging by the shock and horror the product’s announcement provoked online, is that there are many possibilities in this life more disturbing than having a package stolen from your front door. Like, for example, getting robbed (or worse) by the person who delivers that package after you grant them access to enter your home.
Or perhaps they did consider the fear that this possibility would stoke. It’s interesting, after all, that in the promotional material for Amazon Key on the company’s website, the model pictured in a delivery uniform stepping inside a customer’s house and dropping off a package is slim, beautiful, and female. So is the model pictured installing the product in a customer’s doorway. In other words, both Amazon employees in the ad are non-threatening (women you’d invite in for a cup of tea, as opposed to men who might sift around in your underwear drawer).
But this seemingly shrewd marketing technique hasn’t stopped the internet from expounding on all that might go wrong should we let Amazon into our homes. A few choice tweets on the subject: “I’m excited to watch the 2030 Netflix docudrama about the Amazon Key murders,” and my personal favourite: “Amazon Key . . . the long-awaited answer to who let the dogs out.”
Of course, this reaction (though very funny) is decidedly over the top. Amazon couriers are not breaking and entering. They will be given explicit permission to walk into customers’ homes. And no one is being forced to purchase the service. (Packages will continue to be delivered the old-fashioned way.) Customers who do choose to purchase the system for roughly $250 will also be able to watch the deliveries to their homes take place in real time on an app. We are still, I suspect, a long way away from couriers using technology to murder us and let our dogs run out of the house into oncoming traffic.
But this doesn’t mean that the product’s existence isn’t a creepy sign of things to come. The driving force behind a product like Amazon Key — the reason it exists — is that customers are increasingly comfortable sacrificing privacy for convenience. And it’s the goal of corporations like Amazon to have a monopoly on convenience.
It’s important to note that Amazon Key is not a one-note service; it’s a means for the company to eventually perform more than 1,000 others. From Amazon’s website: “In the coming months, Amazon Key will provide customers with a convenient way to provide unattended access to professional service providers. This includes services from home cleaning experts Merry Maids and pet sitters and dog walkers from Rover.com, as well as over 1,200 services from Amazon Home Services.”
A.K.A., Your Life by Amazon.
It’s fortuitous that the company announced this “unattended access” business feature at the height of our culture’s “emotional labour” conversation. First-World people, many of them working women, (like the woman depicted in the product’s promotional video) are overwhelmed and exhausted by the tyranny of the little things. Book the cleaner. Pay the cleaner. Buy a gift for mom before dinner tonight. Wrap it. Take the dogs out. Put the dogs back. Wouldn’t it be great if some benevolent Godlike being could just swoop in and take care of all of it in your absence? Well now it can, for a mere $249.99 and the gradual but total erosion of your privacy.
My sincere hope is that the online backlash to Amazon Key isn’t just digital noise, but a signal of the product’s pending failure. I hope that Amazon Key tanks badly, as badly as New Coke and Crystal Pepsi combined, sending a message to tech companies that though we are naive enough to let corporations track our movements, our spending habits and our private conversations, we will stop short at letting them, flesh and blood, step through our front doors.
For now at least.