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Today, Amazon is rolling out Amazon Key. It's a high-tech solution for allowing packages to be delivered inside your home when you're gone. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports on what that technology says about our views of privacy and convenience.
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: If you think about the most basic way that people separate their public and private lives, it's a door, especially the door to your house.
MARY MADDEN: Hi, Alina. Welcome.
SELYUKH: How are you doing?
I'm stepping out of a rainy street into the home of Mary Madden. She studies digital privacy at the Data and Society Research Institute, and she points out something interesting about our digital lives.
MADDEN: We used to think of privacy and security as quite separate concepts. And increasingly, the two are becoming more closely associated and, in some cases, completely overlapping.
SELYUKH: Think of it this way. In the physical world, you trust that your front door will help keep your life private but also secure. Lately we've been trusting companies to do the same on the Internet. And now Amazon is asking for the actual key to that front door.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: As an Amazon Prime member, you'll now be able to use Amazon Key, a new service that enables in-home delivery.
SELYUKH: Amazon Key is an Internet-connected door lock linked with an Internet-connected camera that you put inside your house. The pitch is convenience. You can make sure your purchases don't get stolen or use the smart lock to let other people in remotely, like your dog walker.
MADDEN: It's easy to see the ways in which some of these technologies will make life more convenient. It's not always easy to see the risks that they may present down the road.
SELYUKH: With Amazon Key, these risks are both digital and physical. Amazon's camera lets you see who's coming in, but it's also software that opens your door. Software can be hacked. And a Wi-Fi-connected camera is only as secure as the Wi-Fi connection it's on. Plus, it's more ways for Amazon to learn about you.
MADDEN: People tend to assume that there are a lot more restrictions around what companies can and can't do than there actually are.
SELYUKH: Privacy researchers have been watching how trust is evolving. A Carnegie Mellon study a few years back tracked how people were cutting back on details they posted publicly while posting even more of them in their friend circles without thinking of Facebook and other apps silently listening in. These days, we've got voice-activated assistance learning about us inside our homes. And now there is an Amazon camera.
MADDEN: We are in a time where even people who study (laughter) these issues for a living can't keep up with all of the potential uses and implications.
SELYUKH: And Amazon Key will be one test for just how much we trust a company with access to our front door. Alina Selyukh, NPR News.
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