Echo and Ring Users, Amazon Sidewalk Begins on June 8th with You In It Unless You Opt Out: Data Privacy Trends

If you have an Amazon Echo (aka, “Alexa”) or Ring camera device, you have less than a week to opt-out of Amazon’s new Internet of Things (IoT) service, Amazon Sidewalk.  Otherwise, you (or at least your devices) will be in it automatically.  Here’s what Sidewalk is and how you can opt out.

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

The best explanation of Sidewalk that I’ve seen comes from Lucas Ropek at Gizmodo, who said: “Sidewalk works like this: users pool a small, encrypted portion of their personal network with those of other nearby Amazon product users. It’s essentially a bandwidth-sharing arrangement that promises improved service for devices in certain circumstances. Amazon uses the examples of a smart lighting product set up at the edge of a user’s property or a garage door lock that happens to be located in a poor coverage zone. In both scenarios, the product may use Sidewalk to receive ‘connectivity support from a participating neighbor’s gateway’ and thus continue to operate if ‘the device falls offline for a period of time,’ as the company puts it. Similarly, Amazon claims that Sidewalk can be used to bolster the connectivity of pet-finder devices and allow for continued tracking of a lost pooch or feline who has wandered outside the reach of a pet owner’s personal network.”

Per Eric Griffith of PC Magazine, “your Echo devices and your neighbors can co-mingle, forming a low-energy, long-range mesh network over the whole area.”  Hey, didn’t Lucius Fox resign over something like this in The Dark Knight? 😉

Griffith’s article provides a list of compatible devices, 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 (all models and generations)
  • Echo Spot
  • Echo Studio
  • Echo Input
  • Echo Flex

Amazon Sidewalk and Security

Ropek also notes that with Sidewalk, “Amazon claims it has ‘carefully designed privacy protections’ that govern how the program ‘collects, stores, and uses metadata.’ The company has even put out a short ‘white paper’ that outlines the privacy and security features built-in to its program—which includes Sidewalk’s three-layered encryption.”  But he also notes Amazon’s “shitty” track record with data security, specifically identifying data privacy issues and a class action lawsuit over privacy issues with Ring cameras.

How to Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk

If you have compatible Echo and Ring devices and want to be part of the Amazon Sidewalk network, you don’t need to do anything as your devices will automatically be included on June 8th.  If you don’t want to be part of it, here’s how you can opt out, per Ropek’s article:

  • In the case of Echo devices, users should simply open the Alexa app, then do the following: More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Off.
  • If you’re using a Ring device, meanwhile, visit the control center in the Ring app or website, where you can disable Sidewalk as a feature.

Note: if you don’t see the Amazon Sidewalk option, it’s probably because you don’t have a compatible device.  At least that’s what I’ve read.

There you have it – some news you can use, at least if you have data privacy concerns about your Amazon devices being part of a “low-energy, long-range mesh network”.  Will Amazon Sidewalk be a “tightrope” over your data security?  We’ll see.

So, what do you think?  Do you plan to include your Amazon devices in Sidewalk or opt out?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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