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Amazon Devices Will Soon Share Your Internet

June 8th! That’s the day Amazon begins automatically opting in users of Alexa, Echo, Ring security cams, and Tile devices into a program called Amazon Sidewalk. Amazon Sidewalk is basically a giant shared wireless network. That means Amazon will take a little of your wireless bandwidth and share that into a bigger pool of bandwidth so you, your neighbors, or people passing by can access the internet through this crowdsourced network. If that sounds kinda creepy, that’s because it potentially is. Especially because Amazon does that thing we HATE — they opt you in, rather than asking your permission to opt in. So, maybe take a few minutes to go opt out.

How to Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk

  1. Open your Alexa app (if you have a Ring, but not an Alexa, go to your Ring Control Center in the app to opt-out).
  2. Open More. Open Settings.
  3. Select Account Settings.
  4. Select Amazon Sidewalk.
  5. Turn Amazon Sidewalk to OFF.

What to Know About Apple Airtag Trackers

Apple recently came out with Airtags, their version of a little tracking device you attach to your purse, keys, phone, or wallet to help you always know where they are. Every review we’ve seen says two things about the Airtags. One, they work great. Two, they might just work too great. The problem? They are too easy to use to track non-consenting humans without their knowledge. Which is pretty creepy. Unfortunately, it’s not new. Tile trackers have also had this problem in the past.

What’s the problem?

Airtags track things out of normal bluetooth range by being part of Apple’s huge network of phones. Apple’s Find My app network used to help track their Airtags is huge, with over a billion iPhones in use. Tile uses a similar network but it has traditionally been much, much smaller. That will change soon though, as Tile trackers will start working on Amazon’s Sidewalk local bluetooth network June 14th. And while Apple has built in some features to try and keep their Airtags from being used to stalk people without their knowledge, experts worry these features don’t go far enough. For example, originally Airtags that have been away from their owners phone will make a sound after three days. Although last week Apple announced they would start sending out updates to the devices shortening this time to “play at a random time inside a window that lasts between 8 and 24 hours.” And while Apple does have a feature to notify users if an unknown Airtag is nearby, that feature currently only works if you have an iPhone running iOS 14.5. Android users are out of luck until Apple releases the Android app later this year.

What’s the solution?

Right now, there isn’t a great solution for consumers other than hope no one tries to stalk you with an Airtag. A better solution? Apple should do better. And it seems they are working on it. We’re happy to see Apple’s recent announcement they will shorten the time before an alert is sent to an unsuspecting user from three days to an 8 to 24 hour window. There’s still plenty of stalking that can be done in that time frame though. And Android phones need to be given alerts too. Hopefully Apple will get that Android app in users hands sooner rather than later this year.

All in all, our brave new world of consumer trackers currently feels pretty creepy.


What’s Not Creepy?

Fitness tracker reviews

Warmer weather means getting outside and getting active. If you’re thinking of buying a fitness tracker to track all the steps you’ll take this Summer, that sleep you’ll get (or not get), or your heart rate, stress, and blood oxygen levels, know that not all fitness trackers protect all that personal biometric data the same. Garmin makes our Best Of list, while Amazon’s Halo and Xiaomi’s Mi Band 5 earn our *Privacy Not Included warning label. We’ve got all our fitness tracker reviews right here to make it easy for you.


Coming Soon: Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day is coming June 21st and 22nd. What does this mean for you as a tech consumer? First, it means DEALS! We all love deals on cool tech. It also means shopping smart on those deals so you don’t get something totally creepy. How to do that? Well, our *Privacy Not Included buyer’s guide is a great place to start. Check it out now. Bookmark it for later. And use our Best Of category to find the good stuff and our *Privacy Not Included warning labels to help avoid the creepy stuff.

Thank you,

Jen Caltrider
Lead, *Privacy Not Included
Mozilla