Are you willing to let Amazon into your front door? Is this a smart or really ridiculous way to make deliveries more secure?

SEATTLE — For many online shoppers, packages often linger for distressingly long hours outside their homes, where they can be stolen or soaked by rain. Now, if customers give it permission, Amazon’s couriers will unlock the front doors and drop packages inside when no one is home.

What could possibly go wrong?

The head spins with the opportunities for mischief in letting a stranger into an empty home. There are risks for couriers too — whether it’s an attacking dog or an escaping cat. To allay these concerns, Amazon is asking customers to trust it — buy a package of technology including an internet-connected smart lock and an indoor security camera.

Amazon isn’t the only business that believes this is the future of internet shopping, as well as other services that require home access, like dog walking and house keeping. This summer, a start-up that makes smart locks, Latch, struck a deal with Jet.com, an online shopping site owned by Walmart, to jointly pay for the installation of its locks on 1,000 apartment buildings in New York City to make deliveries easier. The arrangement offers some of the security of a doorman for people who live in buildings without them.

E-commerce companies have experimented with ways of making deliveries more secure for years. Amazon installs self-service lockers in office buildings and outside supermarkets where customers can fetch their orders, and Daimler and other carmakers have tested the delivery of goods from Amazon and other retailers to customers’ car trunks.

The costs of package theft aren’t known — Amazon, for example, will not say — but are probably substantial. Most people who have spent any time on a neighborhood blog, social network or email list have a sense of how prevalent such crime is. And packages sitting on front porches can also signal to anyone who walks by that the homeowners are away.

Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who specializes in legal issues related to technology, said Amazon’s new service relies on the same kind of trust homeowners commonly extend to services to which they hand over their keys. But he said those agreements often involve in-person interactions, which won’t happen when homeowners allow Amazon to unlock its doors.

“It raises questions about how do you specify and police expectations when the relationship is one mediated almost entirely by technology?” Mr. Calo said.

Amazon’s new service, Amazon Key, will require customers to buy a kit that starts at $250 and includes a security camera made by the company and a smart door lock made by Yale or Kwikset. When a delivery comes to a customer’s door, the lock first helps Amazon verify that the driver is at the correct address at the appropriate time. It then starts recording video and unlocks the door, capturing the entire visit.

“Customers told us they really want to understand and see what’s happening when deliveries are happening,” said Charlie Tritschler, vice president for Amazon devices. “It gives them assurance.”

Amazon is also offering the camera, called Amazon Cloud Cam, as a stand-alone product for $120, significantly less than other internet-connected cameras.

Amazon says it will guarantee protection for customers in the event a driver damages or steals something inside a home. It suggests homeowners keep pets away from front doors when deliveries are expected. If drivers can’t safely make deliveries, they’ll leave packages outside.

The company said Amazon Key will be available in 37 cities in the United States starting Nov. 8 and open to its Prime members, who pay $99 a year for fast shipping and other benefits. The system can also be used to grant home access to other services, such as Merry Maids, a housecleaning provider, and Rover.com, a dog-walking site.

Luke Schoenfelder, the chief executive and co-founder of Latch, the start-up working with Jet.com, said it has initially focused on installing smart locks on the front doors of apartment buildings to allow deliveries to building lobbies, rather than inside the apartments themselves. Allowing couriers inside apartments has more risks, but Latch plans to eventually do that as well.

“It certainly has a lot more challenges,” he said. “Pets are the biggest one.”

Still, he predicted that the strangeness of allowing companies like Latch and Amazon unlock front doors will go away as customers get more accustomed to the services, in the same way they got more comfortable stepping into a stranger’s car they had summoned with Uber or Lyft.

“The world is absolutely going there,” Mr. Schoenfelder said.

Originally posted on The New York Times