You already buy your books, music and pretty much everything else from Amazon. Now the company wants you to buy a digital lock for your home that will let strangers (a.k.a. delivery people) open the door to leave packages inside.
The announcement of the Amazon Key system alarmed some privacy advocates and elicited sneering comparisons to Juicero and Soylent from the Washington Post. But don’t take the backlash at face value, says Recode’s Jason Del Rey: Even though it represents yet another way in which Amazon is trying to enter our daily lives, Amazon Key might be legitimately useful for some consumers.
“There are actually a ton of Americans all over the country who have packages stolen,” Del Rey said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. “I think it’s kind of crazy to lump this in with those [Juicero and Soylent]. I see the convenience angle, ‘How lazy could we possibly get?’ But I think this is different. This is, 'I don’t want my shit stolen!’”
“Privacy is a topic that gets people worked up, as it sometimes should,” he added. “People are saying, ‘Wait, now we’re giving this company access to my home? How much more are we giving away?’ ... I think in a world where we get into the car with strangers, we sleep at strangers' homes with Airbnb, some people won’t like it and some people will feel comfortable with it.”
On the new podcast, Del Rey addressed other concerns about privacy and Amazon’s growing influence on our lives. At the center of the discussion was the success of the company’s hardware, such as the Amazon Echo and its main feature, the virtual assistant Alexa.
“When people go online, where do they start searching for a product?” he said. “There’s some third-party data that’s showing that more than half of U.S. internet users now start on Amazon. In a world in which voice starts carving out pieces of online commerce, not only does that help Amazon, but it hurts Google even more so in product search.”
Alexa gets smarter and learns more about you by listening to your voice searches, but you can delete them from its memory from the Alexa mobile app, Del Rey explained. Trying to prune those one by one might be ultimately futile, though, if voice continues to find its way into more and more devices.
“When you see young children in houses that have these devices talk or communicate with them — let alone, the adults — but I watch my 4-and-a-half-year-old, it’s very clear why a lot of people look at this as the future of computing,” Del Rey said.
Have questions about privacy and Amazon’s hardware that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.