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Amazon devices will soon automatically share your Internet with neighbors

Amazon devices will soon automatically share your Internet with neighbors
Written by publishing team

If you use Alexa, Echo, or many other Amazon devices, you only have 10 days to sign up for an experience that leaves your personal privacy and security hanging in the balance.

On June 8, the merchant, web host, and entertainment giant will automatically enroll devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless network service will share a small slice of your Internet bandwidth with nearby and unconnected Sidewalk-enabled devices. Sidewalk will also help your Amazon devices get a portion of your bandwidth from other Sidewalk users when you don’t have a connection.

By default, a variety of Amazon devices will be enrolled in the system on June 8. And since only a small portion of people take the time to change the default settings, this means that millions of people will be involved in the program whether they know anything. about it or not. The Amazon webpage linked above states that Sidewalk is “currently available in the US only”. The complete list of devices that can act as Sidewalk bridges are Ring Floodlight Cam (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019), Echo (3rd generation and later), Echo Dot (3rd generation and later), Echo Dot for Kids (3rd generation and later), Echo Dot with Clock (3rd generation and later), Echo Plus (all generations), Echo Show (all models and generations), Echo Spot, Echo Studio, Echo Input, and Echo Flex.

The web page also states:

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better. Run by Amazon at no cost to customers, Sidewalk can help simplify setting up the new device, extending low-bandwidth devices to help find pets or valuables with tile trackers, and helping devices stay online even if they are outside its scope. home wifi. In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security, lighting, and diagnostics for hardware and tools.

How will Amazon Sidewalk affect personal wireless bandwidth and data usage?

The maximum bandwidth of the Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk Server is 80 kbps, which is about 1/40 of the bandwidth used for a typical HD video stream. Today, when you share your Bridge connection with Sidewalk, the total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is 500MB, which equates to a stream of about 10 minutes of HD video.

Why do I participate in Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon Sidewalk helps your devices connect and stay connected. For example, if your Echo loses its connection to wifi, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router. For select Ring devices, you can continue to receive motion alerts from your Ring Security Cams and customer support can still troubleshoot problems even if your devices lose their wifi connection. The Sidewalk can also extend the business range of Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights, pet locators, or smart locks, so they can stay connected and continue working over longer distances. Amazon does not charge any fees to join Sidewalk.

Amazon has published a white paper detailing the technical underpinnings and terms of service that it says will protect the privacy and security of this bold undertaking. To be fair, the paper is fairly comprehensive, and so far no one has mentioned specific flaws that undermine encryption or other safeguards being put in place. But there are enough theoretical risks to give users pause.

Wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have a history of being unsafe. Remember WEP, the encryption system that protects Wi-Fi traffic from being monitored by nearby parties? It was widely used for four years before researchers uncovered flaws that made decrypting data relatively easy for attackers. WPA, the technology that replaced WEP, is more powerful, but it has also had a checkered history. Bluetooth has had its share of similar security vulnerabilities over the years as well, either in the Bluetooth standard or in the way it is implemented in many products.

If industry-standard wireless technologies have such a poor track record, why do we think a proprietary wireless system would have any better than any other?

omnipotent leviathan

Next, consider the wealth of intimate details that Amazon devices possess. They see who’s knocking on our doors, and in some homes they’re checking into our living rooms. They hear the conversations we have with friends and family. They control locks and other security systems in our home.

Extending the reach of all this encrypted data to sidewalks and neighbors’ living rooms requires an unwarranted level of trust for a technology that has never before been extensively tested.

Finally, let’s not forget who is providing this new way for everyone to share and share alike. As independent privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani said: “In addition to learning about everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their online activity (as AWS is one of the most popular web hosting services) … the global ISP at the click of a button switching, all without having to lay down a single foot of fiber.”

Amazon’s decision to make Sidewalk an opt-out service rather than a subscription is also evident. The company knows that the only chance for the service to gain critical mass is to turn it on by default, and that’s what it does. Fortunately, turning off Sidewalk is relatively painless. It’s common:

  1. Open the Alexa app
  2. Open More and choose Settings
  3. Define account settings
  4. Choose Amazon Sidewalk
  5. Amazon Sidewalk shutdown

There is no doubt that the benefits of Sidewalk for some people will outweigh the risks. But for many, if not the vast majority of users, there are few positive sides and many negative sides. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

The post has been updated to remove tile trackers and motion sensors from the list of affected devices.

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