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Echo and Ring Owners Need to Opt Out of Amazon's Invasive WiFi Sharing

by on June 04, 2021
in News, Health and Home, Home Safety & Security, Internet & Networking, Computer Safety & Support, Blog, Privacy :: 23 comments

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Starting June 8, 2021, Amazon Echo and Ring video doorbell owners will automatically begin sharing their WiFi home network with other Amazon device owners as part of a new "feature" called Amazon Sidewalk. Sidewalk, which was first announced in September 2019, apportions a small piece of all Amazon Echo or Ring device’s wireless connections and pools them together “to create a network that benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community.”

According to Amazon, “[w]ith Amazon Sidewalk, customers will be able to place smart devices anywhere on their property and know they’ll work great, even in dead spots where WiFi and Bluetooth don’t reach.” Owners of Amazon devices will also benefit if their home network becomes unavailable. For example, Ring Cams will be able to piggyback on a neighbor's Amazon device to send alerts.

What devices are Amazon Sidewalk enabled?

Amazon Echo and Ring devices which will be automatically enabled for Sidewalk include:

  • Ring Floodlight Cam
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Wired
  • Ring Spotlight Cam Mount
  • Third-generation and newer Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot for Kids, and Echo Dot with Clock
  • All versions of the Echo Plus
  • Second-generation Echo Show
  • All versions of the Echo Show 5, 8, 10, Echo Spot, Echo Studio, Echo Input, and Echo Flex
  • Third-party Alexa-compatible device makers will be able to add Sidewalk capabilities to their products as well

There are millions of Alexa, Echo, and Ring devices out there – according to Statistica, half of U.S. homes include a smart speaker, and nearly 70% of all smart speakers sold in the U.S. are Alexa compatible, according to eMarketer.

Should you opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon Sidewalk may be a completely benign technological aid, but Amazon hasn’t helped quell the inevitable conspiracy paranoia with how it’s handling Sidewalk’s rollout. Amazon isn’t asking us if we want to become part of the Sidewalk network. Instead, Amazon is simply turning Sidewalk on for your compatible Echo and Ring devices.

Wait, what? They can do that? Yup. That capability by itself is a bit scary.

With the potentially malevolent reach of Big Tech into our online life dominating the news, it’s natural to be suspicious. What does Amazon get out of Sidewalk? Does its ability to somehow reach into our Echo and Ring gear and WiFi connection mean they can reach into our devices and access and collect our personal info as well? Can evil-doers hack into Sidewalk and steal our personal information? Can Amazon reveal our data to be used against us in a court of law?

Amazon has at least anticipated Sidewalk privacy and data security concerns. The company has posted an “Amazon Sidewalk Privacy and Security Whitepaper” to help explain “how Amazon secures customer data, and how Amazon limits the collection and storage of customer information” when you allow your devices to become connected to Sidewalk. We’re assured that “Amazon has carefully designed privacy protections into how Sidewalk collects, stores, and uses metadata.”

Uh-huh. Do go on.

In rather long and overly technical language, the Whitepaper explains what data Sidewalk collects and uses. They assure us that:

  • Your data is encrypted
  • Amazon can’t access individual user data
  • Non-Amazon Alexa devices are restricted from unauthorized access to sensitive data
  • Your individual location is protected
  • Sidewalk data can’t be subpoenaed or otherwise accessed by law enforcement

What is not adequately addressed by Amazon is the backdoor Sidewalk creates into your secure WiFi network. This new vulnerability could be exploited by hackers to access not just your Amazon product, but all devices connected to your network. And despite whatever assurances Amazon will give us about Sidewalk's security, we have seen time and again supposedly secure systems get compromised.

Do you think Sidewalk’s smart home connectivity extension is worth any possible privacy intrusions or risks? We might have been a smidge more trusting if Amazon had left the Sidewalk opt-in decision to us to start. In our opinion, this tradeoff between convenience and security is far too great. Unless you have a specific situation where you need Amazon Sidewalk to extend your WiFi network, owners of Sidewalk compatible Echo or Ring devices should opt out.

How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk

To opt out of Sidewalk in your Amazon Alexa app:

  1. Tap on the striped “More” icon in the lower right-hand corner of the home screen.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Select Account Settings.
  4. Select Amazon Sidewalk. If you don’t see Amazon Sidewalk, you don’t have a Sidewalk compatible device
  5. Toggle to Disabled.

To opt out of Sidewalk in your Ring app:

  1. Tap on the three lines in the upper left corner to bring up the menu.
  2. Select Control Center
  3. Scroll down to the Community Control section and select Amazon Sidewalk
  4. Toggle to Disabled. If your Ring device is not Amazon Sidewalk compatible, you’ll see a list of Sidewalk Enabled Devices.

[Image credit: Amazon Echo Dot with Plant via BigStockPhoto]

Stewart Wolpin has been writing about consumer electronics for more than 35 years, including news, reviews, analysis and history, and has attended and covered nearly 50 Consumer Electronic Shows and around a dozen IFA shows in Berlin. For the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), he is an elector for and writes the official biographies of the annual CT Hall of Fame inductees, and is the keeper of the industry’s official history.



Discussion loading

Down the Road...

From SaintSumatra on June 04, 2021 :: 2:59 pm

Do we if opt-out be available on any of Amazon’s future IoT releases?

Do we have to opt-out on everyone of these devices, or does opt-out cover all devices across our account?

Reply

If you opt out now,

From Suzanne Kantra on June 04, 2021 :: 4:37 pm

If you opt out now, you can always opt in later. Your choice will apply to all of the devices that are connected to your Amazon Alexa account or Ring account. So if you have Alexa and Ring devices, you should opt out in both apps to cover all of your devices.

Reply

Removal without alexa

From Mar on June 04, 2021 :: 4:56 pm

Do you need to remove this on ring devices if you use Google home and not Alexa?

Reply

Yes, you need to opt

From Suzanne Kantra on June 04, 2021 :: 5:03 pm

Yes, you need to opt out for Ring devices with the ring app.

Reply

ring doorbell?

From Marion on June 04, 2021 :: 5:30 pm

I see no mention of ring doorbell. We have no other ring cameras. Should we be concerned?

Reply

Ring doorbell are not currently included

From Josh Kirschner on June 04, 2021 :: 7:16 pm

As of now, Ring Doorbells are not currently included in the Sidewalk rollout. We don’t know if Ring doorbell models will become part of the Sidewalk community in the future.

Ring devices

From B Yalcin on June 04, 2021 :: 5:40 pm

If we opt out of the Amazon sidewalk with the ring devices, will the ring devices still work and record?

Reply

Yes, they will still work as they do now

From Josh Kirschner on June 04, 2021 :: 7:18 pm

If you opt out of Amazon Sidewalk, your Ring devices will work exactly the same as they did before.

Reply

Big Head Billionaires

From Bryan on June 04, 2021 :: 6:45 pm

Big Head Billionairs think they can just act like Kings and do what ever they want all over this land.
The far reaching and suttle tech moves into our daily free lives is far reachig enough already. Bezos needs to be stopped. Someone needs to slap that selfcentered big head and straigthten him out.
He bought the Washington post just so he can spue his misguiged thoughts on to us all and his voice is full of lies to just bring about his evdevors. There are limits to capitalism. All Kings fall. It is time for the American people to break up Amazon and take our online comerce market back for the good of us all.

Reply

Alternative

From Frd on June 05, 2021 :: 7:48 am

He bought WAPO to offset the LIES and DISINFORMATION being spread by the former occupant of the white house. Obviously, you chose to believe those lies without question.

Reply

He bought WaPo in 2013.

From Kevin on June 05, 2021 :: 8:42 am

He bought WaPo in 2013. Stop making everything about one political side or another.

Reply

Wapo

From Fred on June 05, 2021 :: 9:36 am

AND the paper has continued it’s high level of excellence as it did during Watergate.  It continues to expose the Trump corruption and lies. Some xant or won’t see it as their heads are too far up Trumps butt.

You can believe a pathological liar and life long con man, or you can choose to learn the truth.

Narrow minded thinkers

From Nick on June 05, 2021 :: 8:53 am

I hope Ring doorbells are included soon.
If my WiFi stops working and it jumps on to my neighbour who has a Ring doorbell then that’s good.  If someone cut my internet cable (easily accessible virgin media on the street) then the Ring security cams wouldn’t work.  I’d rather it then jumped to someone else’s connection to record what it would otherwise miss.

Reply

Wonderful if it were opt in

From Josh Kirschner on June 06, 2021 :: 9:04 pm

There are certainly situations for some people where this feature could be useful. And our perspective on this would have been very different if Amazon had rolled this out on an opt-in basis, rather than via opt-out, when many device owners aren’t even aware this is happening.

Reply

Doesn't seem to apply yet in the UK

From Andy Pryce on June 05, 2021 :: 4:31 pm

This doesn’t seem to apply to users in the United Kingdom. My Alexa app and Ring app don’t have Sidewalk listed.

Reply

Versions

From Fred on June 05, 2021 :: 5:17 pm

It depends on the version of each device.  I have a Ring doorbell and an ECHO Show 8 and neither have the sidewalk options. Mine are early versions.

Reply

thanks

From Gower on June 05, 2021 :: 7:47 pm

I opted out.

Reply

What about Amazon Fire Stick TV?

From G-mann on June 06, 2021 :: 3:28 pm

Is the Fire stick, which uses voice commands, also included?  Thank you!

Reply

No, Fire Stick is not included

From Josh Kirschner on June 06, 2021 :: 9:06 pm

Fire Stick doesn’t have the specific long range WiFi tech necessary to operate via Sidewalk (nor would it make a lot of sense from a user case standpoint), so Fire Stick is not included and will not likely be in the future.

Reply

Where Do I Find the App?

From C Rogers on June 07, 2021 :: 11:41 am

I use a laptop for computer stuff and flip phone for calls.  Where/How do I find the Amazon Alexa app on Windows?

Reply

Sidewalk settings aren't available in Windows

From Josh Kirschner on June 09, 2021 :: 9:12 am

There is an Alexa app for Windows which you can download here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/alexa/9n12z3cctcnz. However, the app doesn’t have the Sidewalk settings, nor can you change Sidewalk settings through the web on the Amazon site. So for now, at least, the only way to set your Sidewalk privacy is via a smartphone or tablet.

Reply

"Amazon can’t access individual user data"

From TK Lang on June 07, 2021 :: 1:28 pm

“Amazon can’t access individual user data”

Hmm. You always see this one. Can they show us how that is possible and verifiable? Because I dont see how all this works if they CANT access your individual data’?

Reply

BLUETOOTH MUST BE ON

From Fred on June 09, 2021 :: 11:38 am

I access the Alexa app from my tablet and to save battery usually don’t have my Bluetooth turned on.
SIDEWALK didn’t appear in the Alexa app till I turned it on and connected to my Echo dot.

Reply

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