The Associated Press reported that Amazon unveiled its new Sidewalk function on Tuesday, enabling Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras to automatically share a portion of their internet connection with neighbors.
The system’s automatic incorporation in already-equipped devices has drawn criticism from disgruntled Amazon customers and security and privacy experts, but some users may not be aware that they may turn the feature off on their own.
Users must go the Alexa app, click the “More” option in the lower right corner of the screen, choose “Settings,” and then choose “Account Settings” in order to disable Sidewalk for Amazon smart devices. There, in an Amazon Sidewalk area, users will see a deactivate button.
Users of the Ring security camera app must access the “Control Center” and click “Sidewalk” in order to disable the feature.
According to Amazon, the goal of Sidewalk’s bandwidth-sharing services is to build a “mesh network” to increase the reach of residential Wi-Fi networks. By doing so, some equipment, including smart locks and Tile, may be able to maintain connectivity with other Sidewalk devices even when they are outside the range of their home network.
Did Amazon inform customers that this was going on?
According to Amazon, emails about Sidewalk were sent to customers in November and last month. The business claims that when you set up devices that are compatible with Sidewalk, you’ll also receive a notification.
How does it function?
Amazon is utilizing a number of radio technologies, including LoRa, which is known for its long range and is better known for commercial and industrial uses like tracking cattle that are grazing on pasturelands.
The purpose of this technology, according to Marc Pegulu of chipmaker Semtech, which is collaborating with Amazon on it, is “not to provide coverage for a single residence.” “It’s kind of a shared network, a shared network throughout the community.”
Devices linked to the shared network are allegedly able to, among other things, look for the best signal while preserving battery life.
According to Thomas Clausen, a computer science professor at France’s École Polytechnique, the network Amazon is establishing could be beneficial if it is open and accessible because it would make it simpler and less expensive to use internet-connected gadgets and sensors while also inspiring new inventions.
However, he points out that when a giant like Amazon, Apple, Google, or Microsoft develops a platform, they may also end up in control of it, which could impede innovation.
What are the risks?
According to Eric Null, a policy manager at the digital rights organization Access Now, Sidewalk might be a potential entry point for hackers into home networks. If that occurs, according to Null, hackers may watch everything you do, seize control of your devices, or gain access to your files to steal information.
The hacking and data leak of someone’s network is inevitable, according to Null.
Attorney General of Connecticut William Tong advised consumers last week to avoid using Sidewalk unless they were confident that their privacy and security would be maintained because the program was in “uncharted area.”
Tong stated in a statement that “wireless networks are already notoriously prone to hackers and intrusions.” Before handing this new system a chunk of their bandwidth, families need better knowledge and more time, according to the statement.
What does Amazon say?
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on privacy and security issues when he was questioned about them. A request for an executive to be available for an interview was ignored by the corporation, but it did claim that the three layers of encryption protecting the data flowing through its network are intended to prevent hackers from accessing it.
The Center for Democracy and Technology’s Samir Jain, director of policy, praised Amazon’s attempts to encrypt data as a positive move. But Jain argued that unless a new technology is implemented in the real world, it is challenging to pinpoint security flaws.
Which devices want to share my internet?
The third generation and newer models of the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot for Kids, and Echo Dot with Clock are among the Echo devices that share network capacity via Sidewalk. The Echo Show 5, 8, 10, the Echo Show II, Echo Spot, Echo Plus, Echo Studio, Echo Input, and Echo Flex.
Sidewalk-enabled The Ring Floodlight Cam, Ring Spotlight Cam Wired, and Ring Spotlight Cam Mount are examples of Ring gadgets.
Does Amazon have bigger ambitions?
Amazon’s explanation of Sidewalk focused on consumer electronics like cameras and speakers. However, it might eventually incorporate the technology into its primary activity, which is the delivery of goods.
According to Clausen of École Polytechnique, the business may, for instance, install tiny internet-connected devices into cardboard parcels to aid in tracking them.
“Having alarm system integration, presence recognition of whether or not there are people present, may potentially allow Amazon to develop more effective delivery schedules and less re-deliveries,” he said. He continued, “That might be one application Amazon is considering.