On Wednesday, in 37 U.S. cities, Amazon will begin piloting a new service that enables delivery people to enter your home while you’re not there using a camera-assisted, remote-operated lock. Given the collective shudder that greeted the announcement of Amazon Key, Americans aren’t exactly comfortable with the idea of an Internet giant letting “a random human” (or worse) range freely in their homes.
Whether you see it as a well-meaning extension of the company’s commitment to convenience or its latest attempt to invade and commercialize our most private spaces, Amazon Key is emblematic of the broader e-commerce industry’s quest to enter our homes. Having battled over the last mile of distribution, online retailers are now focused on the last meter of fulfillment, begging the question: Will delivery make it past the front door?
I believe the answer is unequivocally yes. As CEO of Hello Alfred, the only company in the market that has earned the privilege of entering people’s homes to deliver goods and services — logging more than one million visits across five cities in three years — I believe deeply in the premise that the future of retail is in the home. And I believe more and more households will regard in-home commerce not as an unwelcome incursion but an organically integrated amenity that ensures that groceries go directly into the fridge, dry cleaning into the closet and toiletries are replenished without having to think about them. It’s already happening.
But we will not get to this frictionless convenience where our homes anticipate us through smart locks and cameras that monitor couriers the way a Dropcam watches a dog. Amazon Key and similar app-and-hardware solutions will not get online retailers past the threshold. That’s because no company is welcome through my front door without first doing the hard work to earn my trust.
Although it’s hard to remember now, there was a time when the Amazon smile, the iconic Apple and Google’s quartet of primary colors inspired loyalty and engendered a sense of trust. As we happily traded away the hours in the day for more screen time and personal data for more convenience, we welcomed tech companies to claim more and more surface area in our lives. But it becomes clearer every day that these companies’ sense of stewardship and accountability did not scale up with their market caps.
Well before Google, Facebook and Twitter were summoned before Congress amid a growing backlash against Silicon Valley arrogance and negligence, tech platforms and online retailers — not to mention credit reporting agencies — had already given us ample reason to regret putting our faith in them. We are tired of having our every move tracked, extracted and monetized. We’re done with having no choice but to click “Agree” on terms and conditions that obfuscate what we all know to be true: That we are the product.
In any relationship, once you erode trust, it's nearly impossible to earn it back. But tech giants and online retailers will need to try their very best if they want the right to enter our most personal physical spaces — and it will take more than free shipping and a smart lock.
They can start by remembering that the ultimate purpose of technology is not to scale business models without regard for their consequences, but to scale human potential and empower us by restoring our most precious resource: Time. They can do this by putting people at the center of the operating systems they construct around us and relinquishing claims to our data and privacy.
And they would do well to recognize that they are the incumbents now. If they can’t earn the right to walk through our front doors, there’s a new generation of truly consumer-centric companies that value our rights and our safety, care deeply about improving our lives, and do the work to earn our trust.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.