8.3
May 30, 2021

“Alexa, Cancel Privacy”: Amazon Users now Need to Opt-In to keep Internet Connection Private.

** Author’s note: You can scroll to the bottom of this article to learn how to change your settings and opt out of Amazon Sidewalk. But, as a mindful reader and informed citizen, you should probably read about why you might or might not want to (yay, personal choices!).  

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You have to opt-in to your privacy—and you probably didn’t even know about it.

Think about that for a minute.

Amazon—as powerful as it is—auto-enrolled you in its Amazon Sidewalk service on June 8th, and begin sharing your internet with your “neighbors” via the use of these devices:

>> Alexa
>> Echo
>> Ring
>> Home security cameras
>> Outdoor lights and motion sensors
>> Tile trackers.

Another way to say it? The behemouth just let others in on the network that peers into and around your home, listens into your conversations, and holds your financial information—you know, just to name a few small things.

Are you biting your nails? Are you appalled? Fuming? I am. You should be—if not for yourself, for your friends and family members who use Amazon technology.

Sure, the general idea is to help build a wireless mesh service where communities help each other out by sharing internet connections so that when, say your internet goes down, your home security cameras remain functional and connected via someone else’s internet. That’s sweet and all—neighborly—but there’s a question that I really wish we would all ask ourselves when it comes to these seemingly valiant technological efforts:

“Yeah we can, but should we?”

Yeah, we can all be the hero here and enable our devices to share our internet under the guise of home and general safety. But in my humble, perhaps a little alarmist opinion, that’s exactly the kind of understanding that Amazon is hoping to exploit on a massive scale.

With a project called Sidewalk, which if our minds are perhaps somewhat sleepy or naïve might bring us back to the days when we were drawing on them with chalk and playing hopscotch with neighbors, one almost can’t help but want to take part. Ah, marketing.

We can aid our neighbors, guys! We can share like we were taught to do as little kids! We can be heroes! 

Yeah, we can but should we?

An article here points out the possible dangers of this project; an article there looks at past new and “helpful” technologies that have, despite initial claims like the ones that Amazon is making about the security of Sidewalk Bridge connections (aw, how nice that we get to build bridges), left our information vulnerable to attacks on all sorts of important and private information.

Truth be told, it’s not the idea of sharing that has my blood boiling, it’s the sinister way that Amazon rolled this out.

It’s a default setting, so you kinda get a choice in keeping your connection private, but not really. Think about it: had you heard of Amazon Sidewalk prior to this rant? Had I not indulged in a rare peek at a Twitter push notification, I’d not have had any idea that this was about to be unrolled when I first published this article. How many of us or those who we know have reduced or turned off the news? How many of us have an Amazon product?

Amazon’s marketing language insinuates that it wants to “help” with connectivity, and yet it’s seemingly banking on the portion of its users who are likely just disconnected enough to unknowingly unroll this potentially privacy-betraying feature.

You can bet your bottom Amazon-shopping dollar that the company asked themselves that “Yeah we can, but should we” question when it decided it would be acceptable to rape its users’ privacy.

Harsh words? Yes. But that’s what this violation is.

Yeah, we can force our agenda onto others who might not want it. And we can do it without them knowing, for the most part, if we just use this one little setting. But should we? F*ck yeah, we should!

The company’s counting on users’ forgetfulness, laziness, lack of knowledge, or some other form of incapacitation that, generally speaking, keeps a majority of people from taking the time to change default settings. It’s akin to slipping something into millions of people’s drinks and having their way with them without them knowing.

They’re forcing themselves, in a very specific way, on our sacred right to privacy.

How can we stand by and let corporations do this? How can we watch, allow, and participate in this encroachment on our privacy? Or, perhaps a better question might be the following:

How can we start standing against this?

Step 1: disable Amazon Sidewalk.

Step 2: in the words of Waylon Lewis when I shared this information with him: F*ck Amazon! Here’s how: Stop buying anything from them.

If it’s hard, think for a moment about if the “savings” over time, or the “safety” of using these devices amount to the disintegration of your right to privacy. If it’s hard, remember to ask yourself, “Yeah, I can, but should I?”

Anyway, here’s how you can disable Amazon Sidewalk:

  1. Open the Alexa app.
  2. Open “More” and select “Settings.”
  3. Select “Account Settings.”
  4. Select “Amazon Sidewalk.”
  5. Turn Amazon Sidewalk Off.

Cheers to your privacy—at least until the next inevitable assault on it.

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