back to article Key to success: Tenants finally get physical keys after suing landlords for fitting Bluetooth smart-lock to front door

The owners of a Manhattan apartment block have agreed to give their tenants mechanical keys to end a court battle over a keyless smart-lock system. The landlords of 517-525 W 45th Street in New York installed the Latch smart-lock on the front door of the building when it was recently renovated. The gizmo allows tenants to, for …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    This is just one example and the thin end of a very large wedge with regard to the potential abuse and misuse that IoT will enable.

    As an increasingly confirmed conspiracist i can see why governments are keen to roll out 5G and to have input on whose equipment is enabling it.

    1. GnuTzu


      All the more reason that such technology should not be under the control of any particular political or commercial interest, though that rabbit hole has already become a political cesspool.

    2. gerdesj Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Calm down

      According to - "Unlike those previous generations of mobile network, 5G is unlikely to be defined by any single form of technology"

      So, what exactly *is* 5g? If the fluff website can't define it then why are you getting wound up over it?

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Calm down

        So your reasoning here is that because marketeers are being evasive, there isn't anything to be concerned about? That's not exactly the conclusion I would draw.

      2. GnuTzu

        Re: Calm down

        @gerdesj, O.K., so it's not all one thing. Yet, if you'll excuse my recreational paranoia, not knowing who's controlling what is the kind of apathy that lets the wrong people move in and take over--whoever they may be--whether or not they were plotting to take over in the first place. Seriously, a thing not managed is a thing that will get away from you.

      3. JimmyPage

        Re: So, what exactly *is* 5g

        Very few standards are defined by a single form of technology ...

  2. JassMan

    Targeted advertising

    I see you are about to open a door without using a key. Has your landlord refused to provide one? On a no win, no fee basis, lawyers-r-us would be happy to support you in your claim against your privacy invading landlord. Just click on the ad and we will initiate your claim straight away. No need need to supply us any details, we already know who you are and where you live. In fact, from your tracking log, we can see you are most likely to be at home on Thursday morning, so if you don't phone us on the number in the ad, by Wednesday evening we will send someone to visit you at 08:45 Thursday morning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Targeted advertising

      Tired of being harassed at your doorstep by the same old law firms? If you call today, the law offices of Anon & Coward are happy to take your case, pro boner! (i know what i said)

  3. Flip

    Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

    I used to read ToC's, and if they sort of made sense then I accepted them as a condition of using whatever website, account, app, etc. But the other day I was waiting for a package from UPS, and was encouraged to open an account with them so I could get a more precise delivery window (other than "today").

    There was a box to check next to the line "I was given enough time to read and understand the ToC's", so I took a look at them. 97 pages.

    I didn't bother setting up the account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

      Good job you didn't set up an account. I set up an account with a rather large parcel company last year because like you I had a delivery due and by opening an account, I could have real-time tracking. What I didn't pay attention to was the 90 pages of T&Cs, which I didn't bother to read, after all I just wanted real time tracking so I could be present when the overseas package arrived and I would never actually use the services of this company myself for anything. The package arrived no problems and I continued to bring packages in from overseas.

      6 months later I received a bill for over £4000 from the parcel company. The company sending the parcels had been using premium express services to send my parcels, but had subsequently gone bust, and hadn't paid their bill. Hidden in the T&Cs I agreed to when setting up the account was a clause that stated if the other party did not pay their charges, I would be liable for them.

      Long story short, 6 months of legal fights later I settled for paying them £1000. I was on a loser from the beginning, and they had much deeper pockets than me and could keep on hounding me forever.

      Having a google you'll find lots of stories like this with parcel companies. You'll find that some companies have T&Cs on the note you sign to accept delivery telling you to read the T&Cs on the reverse, where in very very fine print that says similar things such as "by accepting delivery you agree to pay the charges of the sender if they fail to pay".

      Now when I receive a delivery I take the parcel, then refuse to sign. They always hand the parcel over first and there's nothing they can do after I close the door.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls

        Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

        There's going to be a lot of upset gig drivers if we all start reading the T&Cs. And if its one of those electronic things, are the T&Sc on the bottom?

        I wonder how they prove who actually signed given they'll hand packages over to anyone that opens the door and scrawls "Mickey Mouse" on the signature.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          Pedantism must rule, insist on reading all the T&Cs whenever you are asked to have an article instamped.

          Anagram alert.

          1. dak

            Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

            Tut, tut.

            It's pedantry, not pedantism.

            Kids, eh?

            1. Anonymous Coward

              OTOH, pedantism could be taking one's own pedantry even more seriously.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          You can always sign in Latin: Nullus Est Stultus or Neminem

        3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          I wonder how they prove who actually signed

          I wonder if anyone alive can produce a recognisable signature on the digital pads delivery drivers use. I know I can't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

            Decades ago, I sent a (friendly) legal package to someone via a well-known courier company, paying extra for a signature. Nothing came back. When I talked to him, he claimed to have never received it. I requested proof-of-receipt. On the image, I could clearly read: "Exception". They told me that if the driver finds no one home after three attempts, they mark it as an exception and leave it with a neighbour.

        4. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          I wonder how they prove who actually signed given they'll hand packages over to anyone that opens the door and scrawls "Mickey Mouse" on the signature.

          A decade and a half back I ordered some computer parts from a well-known webshop; And paid them. I was notified that part of the order was out of stock and I would be receiving those items in a week or two. And sure enough the parcels arrived with roughly that interval. And then a third parcel seems to have been sent, as about SIX MONTHS later I got a letter from a collection agency because of non-payment of an invoice for a set of items exactly the same as the contents of the second parcel. This annoyed me greatly in several dimensions, as I had neither received a duplicate of the second parcel nor an invoice for same or a request to return it, nor any inquiry from the shop why I wasn't paying their invoice (at which point I might not have been severely annoyed at them yet, and still open to dialogue). To top it off the collection agency sent me a printout of the signatures for the parcels I was said to have received. Signatures that clearly weren't mine, but that actually had a valid explanation. More of a problem was that they were just two in number, with the tracking codes and delivery dates corresponding to the parcels I did actually receive. The collection agency was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation of how those two signatures for those two parcels would prove the existence and delivery of the third parcel for which I had being invoiced.

          With that I considered their collection attempt invalid, notified them of same, tore up the letter and took my computer-buying Very Elsewhere.

        5. Char Gar Gothakon

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          I've always used R.M. Nixon when I've had to sign in or sign for something.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

            I chased up a delivery from ebay. They claimed it had been delivered and closed my case. I phoned up and they said the case was closed. I said "not it's not", can you send me a copy of the signature you claim you've got. Needless to say it didn't match mine. I asked them to speak to the delivery driver to see if he'd put the parcel somewhere. They said "no", I had to report a theft to the police.

            The police, of course, said that ebay had to speak to their driver. Ebay still refused to speak to the driver but instead refunded me.

            What a farce.

            Some months later, spring had sprung and I was working in the garden when I found my package hidden in a bush!!!!!

          2. bpfh

            Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

            Well, that obviously proves that you are not a crook :)

        6. Andy Tunnah

          Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

          You're less sticking it to the man and fucking over a driver.

          I know we're all mostly joking around here, but just in case anyone gets a bright idea - don't take up a driver's time by going over T&Cs. You're not doing anything except stopping that lad earning, as they get paid per parcel, and have less than zero control over..well, anything.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

      If my experience with UPS is anything to go by, they won't be able to find your house anyway, even if you supply them with detail isntructions on how to find it and a link to google street-view showing the front door.

      1. Am

        Re: Terms and Conditions and Conditions and Conditions...

        Or manage to ring the doorbell.

        I happened to spot a UPS driver heading back to their van from roughly the direction of my house. Raced downstairs, saw the card, opened the door and yelled after them and had a bit of a go for them not ringing the doorbell.

        They sauntered over with my parcel, and said they had, and proceeded to demonstrate. By pressing the bit of plastic above the very obvious button. Their smirk disappeared when I pressed the very obvious button to demonstrate how to use a doorbell.

        And typing that has just reminded me of another instance where the tracking app said the item had been delivered. No card, nothing in the usual places. I rang them up - got told no one had answered the door so they'd left it in a safe place. Asked what safe place. Under the white car on your drive. There was no white car on our drive, any of the immediate neighbours' drives, or the road. Turned out they'd left it at a completely different house that wasn't that close (in distance or number) to mine.

  4. Andromeda451


    They would never, ever, ever, scout's honor do anything unethical, immoral or otherwise with the tracking data. Said no one ever.

    1. Haku

      Re: ahem

      Even if the entity collecting the data does nothing unethical, immoral or otherwise with it, that doesn't automatically guarantee the data won't be stolen or bought (company takeover etc.) or subpoenaed by law enforcement in the future.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: ahem

      Exactly. A lock company has no need for that personal data. They outsource it to "researchers."

  5. Anonymous Coward

    It's sad that NYC is one obvious place where you don't particularly need to own a car to be considered a Functioning Person, but someone is already willing to make it so you need to own a normal fartsmoan. I have a couple abnormal (i.e. ungoogled) phones, which I don't really want anyway but never mind that... Does the Latch app even run without Google Play Services? Hmm... I could tell you instead of asking, if only-- is it possible to get a genuine apk without going through the Play store? Does it have that <expletive deleted> Facebook SDK buried in it, and all the additional tracking?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      In answer to your question, Play Services, fine-grain location, two Googly analytics trackers, and two trackers from advertising companies.

      The ad companies say:

      "Increase mobile revenue with enterprise-grade links built to acquire, engage, and measure across all devices, channels, and platforms."


      "Behavioral Analytics, Data Collection, Media Trend analysis, Anonymous Profiling "Firmographics" "

      Yeah, I wouldn't want that watching my front door either.

  6. Nick Kew

    Key? No thank you.

    The last flat[1] I lived in (not long ago) had a much better solution. Normal keys to the (four) individual flats, but for the front door to the building, an oldfashioned mechanical combination lock. No question of tracking, but also without the inconvenience of a lump of metal to burden the pocket.

    Security worked surprisingly well too: on at least two occasions, yobs tried and failed to get in.

    [1] That's "apartment" to Leftpondians.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Key? No thank you.

      My place has a key which lets us all enter the main and rear entrance, cycle room etc but then lets us in to our individual flats. The only complication is if you lose a key and then you have to pay for the lot to be replaced.

      1. General Purpose Bronze badge

        Re: Key? No thank you.

        "My place has a key which lets us all enter the main and rear entrance, cycle room etc but then lets us in to our individual flats."

        That suggests that the individual flat keys only differ from each other slightly.

        Some fellow-students once tried to make a master-key for the fire-doors to their flat in halls, by carefully comparing keys and mechanisms. They discovered they'd made a key that opened all the doors in that tower block. And university campus. And BBC White City, various major rail stations.... Fortunately they were very responsible and only issued master keys to people they liked.

        1. Maty

          Re: Key? No thank you.

          I did something similar once, by accident. I lost the key to my flat, and since the company I was renting from charged a fortune for replacement keys, I told the custodian i'd locked myself out and borrowed the spare key to let myself in.

          A quick trace of the key was followed by some work on a blank with a triangular file, and I had myself a replacement key for a few bucks. I only discovered that I'd copied the master key for the entire tower block after coming home drunk one night and sleeping on someone else's sofa.

          I woke up before that person and quietly let myself out. I dread to think what would have happened if I'd staggered as far as the bedroom.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Key? No thank you.

      I would imagine these days a key with an RFID tag in the bow (bit of key you hold) - a bit like the immobiliser transponder in car keys. That way you could use the RFID tag on one door and the physical key on the other (eg physical for communal areas and RFID for your own flat)

      Or have I just invented something that I need to go off and patent?

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Key? No thank you.

        Or have I just invented something that I need to go off and patent?

        No you haven't. RFID tag to open communal doors is quite common these days.

      2. MJB7

        Re; RFID

        I'd rather have the lower security device (rfid) open the front door.

        My flat has a single key which opens both front door and the flat. If I lose it, I only have to buy new keys and a new lock *for my flat* - the front door is meant to be a minor hurdle, not a major security barrier.

        Two keys is significantly worse than one key because I like to keep my pockets light. (I currently have a key ring with two door fobs for the office, a bike lock, and my flat.)

    3. ratfox

      Re: Key? No thank you.

      I'm confused. You're happy that even though you needed a key for your individual flat, you were able to open the front door with a combination lock, without the inconvenience of having to carry a key?

      Sounds to me that since you need to carry a key anyway, the most convenient would be that the key for your flat also opens the front door...

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Key? No thank you.

        "Sounds to me that since you need to carry a key anyway, the most convenient would be that the key for your flat also opens the front door..."

        And the second most convenient way would be to just have two keys. If you can manage without carrying any keys, changing to be forced to carry one could conceivably be annoying. But once you're already committed to carrying at least one, carrying a second adds essentially zero additional inconvenience.

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Key? No thank you.

        the most convenient would be that the key for your flat also opens the front door.

        Except that if you think that through, that would mean all the flat keys would be the same as the front door, and each other...

  7. Mr Dogshit


    always contains bugs and can always be hacked. And presumably this particular "solution" relies on connectivity to a back end server in order to let you in.

    1. defiler

      Re: Software

      First and foremost, I don't support "smart" locks, alarms and all that other crap, but with that said, you realise that locks can generally be "hacked" too, right?

      The difference I guess is that one is a skill that takes a professional to do well and without being noticeable, whilst the other ends up being a script you can download...

      1. DropBear

        Re: Software

        Neither kind of lock will get you absolutely perfect, inviolable security, only some degree of it - but at least mechanical locks are pretty darn good at preserving one's privacy...

        1. defiler

          Re: Software

          Yeah, personally I prefer the system that doesn't have 1000 critical, dynamic components which are completely outwith my control. Laughed my arse off at the Yale "smart locks" keeping people stuck outside. I know - that was mean of me.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Software

        The difference I guess is that one is a skill that takes a professional to do well and without being noticeable, whilst the other ends up being a script you can download...

        Plus, to pick a lock you have to actually be at the door for the time it takes you to pick it, where a software lock with network connectivity can be opened from Outer Elbonia.

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Software

        My understanding is that 'smart' locks also have a physical lock because you need to be able to open them in the event of a power failure. That means that they are, by definition, less secure than a standard lock, because they have an additional attack surface. (physical lock vs physical lock and smart lock).

        As anyone who has spent some time doing it as a hobby will tell you, many physical locks are laughably easy to pick if you know how. I would imagine the 'backup' on a smart lock will, in most cases, be added as an afterthought, so will also be substantially less secure than an equivalent priced decent physical-only lock. I'd not be surpirsed if it could be picked by 'bumping' alone, or with a 'master' key, making the lock essentially useless against any professional burglar.

        The only advantage I can think of for a smart lcok is the ability to audit (i.e. track) who is opening it, and when. If it's your lock, that's an advantage; if it's a lock that you have to use that does not belong to you (as in this case), it's a disadvantage, and a potentially significant one from the perspective of privacy.

        Security and privacy are normally seen as a trade-off (i.e. you sacrifice some of one to gain some of thd other). In the case of 'smart' locks, it seems you are sacrificing both, to a varying degree, for a perceived gain that in most cases is no such thing.

  8. Korev Silver badge

    If residents can't use the elevators, they have to walk up several flights of stairs, which is a pain.

    Assuming several = three then that is rather lazy! Obviously lifts are essential for people using wheelchairs etc, but the vast majority of people can walk up a flight of stairs or two.

    I speak as someone who used to get shopping up three flights of stairs using crutches...

    1. defiler

      Previous installments of this story revealed that some of the residents are quite elderly. One man in particular was basically housebound because he didn't have a smartphone - I think he was in his 80s.

      I think by that age I'd be quite reticent about using the stairs.

      1. mr-slappy


        Sorry to be a pedant but you mean "reluctant." Reticent means not saying very much.

        Unless you meant you would be out breath after climbing all those stairs...

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge
          1. defiler

            Re: Reluctant

            Apparently my language is just well-modern. Innit?


          2. mr-slappy

            Re: Reluctant

            Just because Americans do it doesn't mean we have to

            1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

              Re: Reluctant

              Please go away.

    2. MJB7

      Re: flights of stairs

      This is New York. I don't know how many floors there are, but double digits would not be unusual.

      1. Raphael

        Re: flights of stairs

        looking at the building on street view, seems to be about 5 floors. But I would not expect an elderly person (or someone with groceries or young children) to be only using the stairs.

  9. trigpoint

    Plus the other issue, the place I am most likely to arrive at with a flat phone battery is home.....

    1. midcapwarrior

      Or worse, left the phone I the charging station at home.

  10. Brangdon

    "...require GPS to be enabled in order to use the Bluetooth functionality..."

    Can someone explain this to me?

    1. Ragarath

      Re: "...require GPS to be enabled in order to use the Bluetooth functionality..."

      One thing I can think of is that the app would only activate the Bluetooth functionality when in a certain radius of the requirement of that part of the app.

    2. 's water music

      Re: "...require GPS to be enabled in order to use the Bluetooth functionality..."

      Can someone explain this to me?

      Presumably the bluetooth signal opens any lock from that vendor but the app is geo-locked so you can only open one for which you are authorised. Or it might be a requirement of teh ad-network libraries they are using.

    3. simonlb

      Re: "...require GPS to be enabled in order to use the Bluetooth functionality..."

      For when pairing your phone to the lock is too easy...

  11. Chris the bean counter Bronze badge

    When people claim inaccuracies

    There should be a law that the press does not give a right to reply unless the PR agrees to waive their anonymity and provides a simple paragraph highlighting the 3 largest and objectively simplest to disprove inaccuracies.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    A concierge or doorman

    also could tell the landlord or police when tenants and visitors came and went. And presumably would do so legally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Robert Carnegie - Re: A concierge or doorman

      Yeah but he can't sell that information to anyone who pays for it.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: @Robert Carnegie - A concierge or doorman

        s/can't/shouldn't/, as technically he can. But he won't be a concierge for long if found out.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Locks & Doors...

    Funny about all of this. Just today, I took SWMBO to the local MD, and for some reason left my front door ajar. I returned about 3 hours later and the letter carrier (aka postman) put a tote of mail from the previous 5 days (I was out of town) on the front porch. Not even a hint of entering the premises. I guess I live in a good neighborhood, as across the street a new house is being built with lots of hard working laborers who might take advantage of me, but don't.

    Yes, I do have security cameras, not connected to the internet.

  14. Joe Harrison

    Fingerprint lock

    My health club recently changed their lockers so I bought the recommended combination padlock. I soon realised that my eyesight is not good enough to see the tiny numbers in the combination without my glasses, which are in the locker. Didn't really want to have to look after a physical key during gym/swim so a bit stuck, what to do?

    A kindly friend bought me a fingerprint padlock. This works surprisingly well 99 times out of 10, and on the occasion it really doesn't feel like recognising your finger then as a backup method you can open it via bluetooth from your phone. Showed it to office colleagues and everyone impressed.

    Turned out in practice to be a disaster as wet wrinkly fingers in a steamy environment don't open fingerprint locks ever. And the bluetooth phone for the backup method is... in the locker. Wearing a key on a string round my neck now.

  15. arctic_haze


    This shows absolute lack of planning for an emergency. What if New York has a prolonged blackout? Not only the lock would stop working (I wonder in which position?) but even in the (unlikely) case of the landlord providing the locks enough backup battery capacity for a few days, most of the phones would be dead anyway after about a day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blackouts

      Normally I would agree with your sentiment, but in this case since the lock was for the door to the elevators I don't think that they would be working during an extended blackout either.

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