Not Just No

Not just no, but hell no. I’d use an even stronger word, but I try to keep this blog within shouting distance of being safe for work.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly has probably guessed, I’m talking about the just-announced Amazon Key service.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Amazon Key, it’s the Big A’s take on an idea Walmart introduced recently: a way for delivery people to put your packages inside the house, so they can’t be stolen.

Walmart’s version, by the way, is a little creepier: they’re offering the service for groceries, and it includes putting them in your fridge. For now, Amazon Key seems to be limited to setting your packages inside the door and leaving it at that. I say “for now” because it’s apparently their way of getting a foot in the door (sorry) and will be expanded later to offer services such as dog walking and housekeeping.

The way the service will work is relatively straightforward: you (well, not you, because I hope everyone reading this blog is smart enough to give Amazon Key a pass) buy a particular Wi-Fi camera and smart lock. Once they’re installed, if you don’t answer the door, your friendly package delivery peon can contact somebody at Amazon HQ, who will remotely unlock the door. You get an alert on your phone and can use your phone and the camera to watch the peon put your packages inside. Presumably the door will lock again when it’s closed.

Amazon claims they’ll be vetting the delivery people. That’s nice. They also claim to vet the current delivery people. You know, the ones who park in the middle of the street and hurl packages over the fence. (A side note: since I wrote that post, I’ve seen several female Amazon delivery peons. Most of them were accompanied by males who were, unlike the women, not wearing any Amazon logo-bearing clothing. Does Amazon also vet those security ride-along people?)

Amazon also says they’ll be carrying insurance to cover you against delivery issues, property damage, or theft. That’s nice. They also explicitly warn against using the Amazon Key service if you have pets who might come to the door. So, clearly they don’t think the insurance will cover lost pets–nor do they want to deal with lawsuits from their gig economy, vetted delivery peons seeking to make the Big A responsible for their dog bites and/or allergic reactions.

But leave that aside.

Remember last year, when a researcher found that “twelve of sixteen locks he bought at random had either no security or absolutely horrible security“? I’ve seen nothing to make me think matters have improved in the last fourteen months. Granted, Amazon is better than many companies about issuing software updates to products they sell under their own name. But it’s not entirely clear to me whether the lock will be Amazon-branded, let alone Amazon-built.

Then there’s that camera. Look back another year, when reports were going around about baby monitors. At that time, nine out of nine popular baby monitors were found to have serious security flaws. Don’t think camera manufacturers have improved their security in the past two years: cameras have been prominent contributors to the waves of zombified Internet of Things attacks we’ve seen in the past year, beginning with last October’s Mirai malware-controlled mess.

But leave that aside, too.

Suppose everything works perfectly according to Amazon’s plan. Amazon is already a huge target for hackers. Do you think giving them the ability to remotely unlock doors will make them less of a target? Do you believe their security is that much better than, say, Target? Experian? Hell, a quick Google search should remind you that the National Security Agency can’t keep their own data secure.

As far as I’m concerned, a massive security breach at Amazon exposing the personal information of millions of customers is only a matter of time.

I’ll pass on Amazon Key, thanks. I hope you will too.

7 thoughts on “Not Just No

  1. I had the same thoughts. Well, not so fully elaborated. But FFS where does the pushy attempt by corporations to become a part of everyone’s personal life ever stop? Well, it stops where we tell it to. I shop at a very few brick and mortar stores — a Trader Joe’s, the state liquor store, and occasionally a big run to Costco; once in a blue moon I have to get something from a drugstore or major chain store. Every time I go to the latter someone wants to swipe my Safeway Card, my CVS Card, etc etc etc etc. They look crestfallen and disbelieving when I say I don’t have one. It’s almost as unsettling to cashiers as my baffling habit of using green money.

    Today for the first time in ages I went through a Safeway line to buy a six pack of Raging Bitch (it’s a very nice Belgian IPA, and hey, it has my name on it) and the cashier was flabbergasted. “You gotta get a card for every store! I ain’t never payin full price no matter how much money I have!” I explained mildly that I wasn’t rich but usually shopped at stores where the prices were so low they didn’t issue cards. She seemed unable to take it in. This is the most gigantic scam. The chains jack up the prices, offer a card to cut them down again, and now they have a handle on everything you’ve bought and a pretty good profile of your habits, health and preferences. Not information I long to disseminate far and wide. I still remember the story of the young woman who bought a pregnancy test at Target or the like and got an envelope full of coupons for baby products in the mail — mail which her parents, whom she had not planned to tell about her situation (I presume she planned to get un pregnant as soon as possible) happened to open. As an Old Bat this is not my issue but I do not see what I should let people in some distant data accretion network come to know me intimately without working for it.

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    • We have a Safeway card. We got it when they were first offering them. They were busy that day and just handed us the associated paperwork, asking us to drop it off the next time we came in. We never did, but the card remains active. So they’re building up a nice profile on someone for whom they have no name, address, phone number, or email address. Seems like a fair deal to us. (Though I should note that we rarely show at Safeway these days. Even after they rediscount the prices, they’re still more expensive than TJs and Lucky.)

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  2. I tell those cashiers (few of whom around here don’t get the issues with these cards – but one did ask me once, and I explained to her) that major marketers pay for this information for a reason – that it is worth something to them, that monitoring us makes us theirs in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

    But as to THIS particular “not just no” – yes and then some to everything y’all both are saying. Baby diapers that’ll all but live inside our infant offspring for diagnostic purposes. CPAPs to monitor your sleep online. People who can’t bear to hit a button to open a garage door anymore. Targeted marketing, and subscription purchasing, and basically electronic sales clerks living in our HOMES.

    Casey, when are you going to write The Just No Stories? ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I sitting here laughing because I literally just yesterday added a mention of “Just So Stories” to my current Work in Progress.

      As for “Just No Stories”? Given my track record with short stories, I think that’ll have to be the title of my first anthology!

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