Amazon Sidewalk Debuts Today Amid Privacy Concerns for Some Device Owners

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If you use Amazon devices, you’re going to want to know about this.

Tuesday, certain Amazon technology will be automatically enrolled into a new feature called “Amazon Sidewalk.”

Amazon said the service was designed to enhance your devices, but Connecticut's attorney general wants you to be aware.

Amazon said Amazon Sidewalk, a shared network with your neighbors, is created to help your devices work better beyond your home, like Ring security cameras and Echos, even Tile trackers to find your keys.

For example, if your family loses Wifi, the Ring could continue to receive motion alerts with help from a neighbor’s Wifi on this system.

This interconnectedness concerns Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.

“And when we’re all stitched together in this sidewalk network it’ll all be exposed and potentially vulnerable to hackers," he said.

University of New Haven Assistant Professor of Computer Science Vahid Behzadan sees major red flags too, although he says some users may find the system beneficial.

“Opting almost every one of Amazon users, those who use Alexa, Echo, or Ring into this network by default. It’s a terrible idea because known and yet to be known security issues and privacy issues associated with it," said Behzadan.

A spokesperson from Amazon sent NBC Connecticut this statement and these web links:

"We believe Amazon Sidewalk will provide value for every customer such as more reliable connections, easier troubleshooting, and extended range for their devices such as smart lights, pet locators or smart locks. Customer privacy and security is foundational to how we’ve built Amazon Sidewalk, including multiple layers of privacy and security to protect the data traveling on the network. We also recognize customers appreciate choice and control which is why they can enable or disable their Amazon Sidewalk settings at any time in the Alexa app or the Ring app."

To enable or disable Amazon Sidewalk settings on your devices, on its website Amazon says to:

  • Open the Alexa app
  • Open More and select Settings
  • Select Account Settings
  • Select Amazon Sidewalk
  • Turn Amazon Sidewalk on or off for your account

Additional Resources:

As Connecticut consumers will soon be opted in, Tong said his office will be keeping an eye on the shared network, especially as it uses bandwidth from some participants' homes.

On their facts page, Amazon has this response to how Amazon Sidewalk impacts personal wireless bandwidth and data usage:

"The maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video. Today, when you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is capped at 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of high definition video."

"Sidewalk Bridges" are described as the devices that provide connections to Amazon Sidewalk.

“If they’re taking 1/40th, maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but cumulatively it’s something that you pay for and so they're using that as part of a larger network and if I’m a consumer I should be like, 'you know I should be able to consent to that or not,'” said Tong.

Amazon said that devices acting as bridges during Amazon Sidewalk are as follows: Ring Floodlight Cam (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019), Echo (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer), Echo Plus (all generations), Echo Show (2nd gen), Echo Show 5, 8, 10 (all generations), Echo Spot, Echo Studio, Echo Input, Echo Flex.

The Cost family of Avon bought two Ring spotlights and a doorbell camera after one of their cars was stolen.

“My wife was nervous, so we went all in,” said Adam Cost.

The cameras have caught some hilarious videos of their dog Finn which they share on social media.

When NBC Connecticut told them about Amazon Sidewalk, they told us they’re going to look into staying enrolled in it.

“You get this stuff for personal security, but I don’t know that everyone needs to know what’s happening at all times in your yard right? So I don’t know. I’ll definitely think about it, now that we know about it.”

You can disable the sidewalk settings at any time in the Alexa or Ring apps.

A family we spoke to from West Hartford said they opted out of Amazon Sidewalk.

They felt it was problematic that they were opted into the network when their public data is involved.

“We have many concerns about Amazon sharing images of our home from Ring cameras and family interactions from Echo devices. In addition, we pay for a Ring subscription, so we should not have to subsidize Amazon’s bandwidth and have our internet connection suffer," the family told NBC Connecticut.

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