That’s right.  I recommend you get off the Sidewalk.  Using it could put your personal information at risk.

I am referring to Amazon Sidewalk.  Sidewalk is a new service that, according to Amazon:

“ . . . creates a low-bandwidth network with the help of Sidewalk Bridge devices including select Echo and Ring devices. These Bridge devices share a small portion of your internet bandwidth which is pooled together to provide these services to you and your neighbors. And when more neighbors participate, the network becomes even stronger.”

Amazon designed Sidewalk to improve location tracing and notifications on compatible devices. Among other benefits, it should help devices that have wireless range issues, keeping them connected to the internet.  Think Tile trackers, CareBands or Level smart locks.  Sidewalk will feature three layers of encryption, all designed to keep users from accessing nearby, shared home networks.

Sounds like progress.

Or is it?  Large data breaches and ransomware attacks occur daily.  Often at companies that claimed to have unbreachable systems.  Is allowing strangers to connect to your networked devices really a good idea?  Over time will new devices, or devices with outdated software, allow hackers to gain access?  Recent history suggests that no system is hacker proof.

Oh, you’re not worried because you haven’t consented to sharing a “small portion” of your internet bandwidth with others?  Take no comfort there.  Amazon has made Sidewalk an opt-out service.  It will be turned on automatically for everyone who owns a designated bridge device unless those individuals take the steps necessary to opt-out.  Amazon seems to be betting that most people with a Ring camera or an Echo Smart speaker won’t take those steps, likely never realizing that their smart devices have been linked to Sidewalk.

Amazon has also been vague about what types of data will be transferable across the Sidewalk network.  Right now, the company has cited only alerts, software updates and the location of lost items.  Sounds fairly innocuous . . . until one considers that Amazon does not “think small.”  One can be certain that Mr. Bezos and company have much larger plans for Sidewalk, plans that involve expanded data transfer capabilities.

So, it’s your choice.  Are the benefits offered by Sidewalk worth the potential risks?  Should you give Amazon this foothold and see what happens, or do you opt out, waiting until more data are available.  I suggest choosing this second, more cautious approach; after all, this is all about the gathering of data.


Peter Dragone - Co-founder of Keurig.