Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Amazon added a new feature, very quietly (I wonder why – not) last year to some Ring products and some Echo products. Amazon Sidewalk takes some of your Internet bandwidth (a small amount) and lets your Ring/Echo enabled neighbors use it in case their Internet goes down (and vice versa).

What could possibly go wrong. Let’s name a few past Amazon mistakes.

  • Last year Gizmodo was able to map tens of thousands of Ring doorbells using Amazon’s neighbors app.
  • Vice and Gizmodo both found instances of hackers breaking in to Ring cameras (ultimately leading to a class action lawsuit).
  • Or that Amazon forgot to mention in its privacy policy that humans might listen to your echo voice recordings.
  • A Portland couple had a private conversation recorded by their Echo sent to a colleague because of Amazon’s software getting confused.

Does this feature intentionally spy on you or steal your bandwidth? NO, not INTENTIONALLY.

You as the consumer have to opt out if you don’t want to play and you have to know how to do that. IT IS ENABLED BY DEFAULT. You have to do that from your Alexa app (see link below for more details).

Of course Amazon is scared to death that if even if just a few people opt out the whole thing collapses because it only works if neighbors very near by have it turned out. I don’t know what the range is, but it can’t be more than a very few hundred feet.

Anyway, if you are concerned and clearly Amazon is not being terribly transparent here, just turn it off if you have one of the Sidewalk enabled devices. Credit: Gizmodo

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