Privacy Experts Angered After Amazon Forces Customers Into New 'Sidewalk' Service

Without a doubt, technology is a great thing. It's allowing us to access information and connect with other people at such a fast rate, faster than at any other point in history!

But with the good also comes some bad, and with newer technologies coming out every year, there also comes some concerns involving user privacy.

Recently, Amazon announced its "Sidewalk" program, a service that allows users to stay connected through their devices.

Unsplash | Christian Wiediger

Using a combination of Bluetooth and a small portion of bandwidth from your home Wi-Fi, Sidewalk is supposed to help keep devices like Echo and Ring cameras online through stronger internet connections, according to Amazon.

It has other benefits, too.

With the addition of Tile Trackers, which are set to be compatible with Sidewalk starting June 14th, the service will allow you to keep tabs on items that could be easy to lose, like phones, laptops, or even keys, Wired reports.

For some, this could actually be a really handy service to use.

But with these benefits come concerns.

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Namely, privacy is a huge concern for many. As the service's goal is to maintain steady connectivity across all compatible devices, it will look to use any available internet.

But what does that mean for privacy?

Unsplash | Arget

This means, as KHOU-11 reports, your devices could end up temporarily connecting to your neighbor's Wi-Fi in the event of a power outage, for example.

The opposite would also be true, meaning your neighbor's devices could connect to your Wi-Fi (this is assuming both of you are using Sidewalk, of course).

Amazon promises that this service is secure.

They state that this service is encrypted and won't put your privacy and personal data at risk. The goal is, with more users opted into Sidewalk, to create a landscape where connectivity is constant no matter where you are.

Being connected to a neighbor's Wi-Fi shouldn't give them access to your data, and vice versa.

That still doesn't mean everyone will want to be on board, however.

Amazon doesn't exactly have the best rep when it comes to protecting user data. After all, the company has been known to be somewhat lax when it comes to user data privacy in the past.

It makes sense that not everyone would be willing to trust them with something like this.

Luckily, the feature is optional.

While Amazon will automatically enroll every eligible device starting June 8, 2021 (including new devices that are purchased after that date), the service isn't required by every user.

There is a way to opt your devices out of Sidewalk after the date rolls around.

It's just a matter of turning the setting off.

So far, it looks like only Echo and Ring devices will be enabled at the June 8 launch. For Echo, you just need to disable Sidewalk in Account Settings (by going to the more > settings menu through the app).

The process will be similar for Ring.

Unsplash | Justus Menke

You'll have to go to the Command Center in the Ring app, and there will be an option to enable or disable Sidewalk right there.

So, what do you think?

Is this the kind of feature you think would be useful? Or is Amazon another company that you're leery about giving too much information to? Since Sidewalk is optional, it's all up to you.

h/t to Wired, KHOU 11.