Invasion of privacy? Amazon's new 'Sidewalk' feature sparking concerns

Posted at 6:42 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 18:21:26-05

CLEVELAND — A new feature from Amazon is raising privacy concerns, but it’s actually designed to give you peace of mind.

“Sidewalk” lets you share your Wi-Fi signal with your neighbors to improve video quality of streaming security devices. If you and your neighbors have ring video doorbells and camera, Amazon will share your Wi-Fi bandwidth to make sure everyone has a strong signal. The company says it uses just a fraction of the shared bandwidth to create a bridge and puts a monthly cap on how much is used.

For those wondering, the bridge is meant to support devices when a Wi-Fi signal is lost allowing you can still use some security features.

Amazon says the goal is to get more people on board with “Sidewalk” in order to help find lost pets or valuables.

Still, privacy groups are sounding the alarm.

Business Insider says, "Amazon faces a privacy backlash for its sidewalk feature, which turns Alexa devices into neighborhood Wi-Fi networks that owners have to opt out of."

The non-profit group Mozilla, which runs the Firefox web browser, doesn't like that Sidewalk will be automatically on when you buy a ring or echo. A spokesperson says, “that's not a practice we like. We like it when people are given a choice to opt in to services that might be sharing their personal data."

Amazon insists there will be no invasion of privacy or spying between homes so your neighbor can’t watch your camera or listen in. You also won’t be able to see which devices are connected to your bridge or anyone else’s.

If you don’t like it, you can turn this feature off in your Ring or Echo device settings.

For more information, click here.