June 2, 2021

PRIVACY: Amazon US customers have one week to opt out of mass wireless sharing.

Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan that would turn every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the US into a shared wireless network, as part of the company’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices.

The proposal, called Amazon Sidewalk, involves the company’s devices being used as a springboard to build city-wide “mesh networks” that help simplify the process of setting up new devices, keep them online even if they’re out of range of home wifi, and extend the range of tracking devices such as those made by Tile.

But Sidewalk has come under fire for the apparent lack of transparency with which Amazon has rolled out the feature, as well as the limited time available for users to complete the tricky process required to opt out. Other critics have expressed concerns that failing to turn the setting off could leave customers in breach of their internet service provider’s terms and conditions.

The company’s plans have caused alarm among observers. Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technology officer of the US Federal Trade Commission, told the tech site Ars Technica: “In addition to capturing everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their internet activity (as AWS is one of the most dominant web hosting services) … now they are also effectively becoming a global ISP with a flick of a switch, all without even having to lay a single foot of fiber.”

When a company makes it difficult for customers to protect their privacy, it’s because the company doesn’t respect its customers’ privacy.

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