Amazon Has Plans to Share Your Internet on June 8

Here's what to know about Amazon Sidewalk and how to opt out
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2021 11:28 AM CDT
Updated Jun 5, 2021 3:00 PM CDT
Amazon Is About to Take and Share a Slice of Your Internet
In this April 16, 2020, file photo, the Amazon logo is displayed in Douai, France.   (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

If you have an Amazon Echo or Ring security camera, the clock is ticking: You have six days to opt out of your device being lumped into a shared wireless network. Known as Amazon Sidewalk, the plan is one geared toward making sure Amazon's smart home devices have connectivity even when your home WiFi isn't in range. The company plans to achieve this by taking a slice of your internet bandwidth and pooling it with that of your neighbors to create a low-bandwidth network. "When more neighbors participate, the network becomes even stronger," says the company in a press release. And on June 8, your devices will automatically be enrolled unless you opt out first. If you don't like the sound of that, you're not alone. More:

  • The Guardian has a great explainer on what Sidewalk hopes to achieve: "At its simplest, it means that a new Echo can set itself up using a neighbor's WiFi, or a security camera can continue to send motion alerts even if its connection to the internet is disrupted, by piggybacking on the connection of another camera across the street." Devices that have low-level bandwidth needs, like smart lights or locks, can get all the bandwidth they need from Sidewalk at all times.
  • At Ars Technica, Dan Goodin describes it as "an experiment that leaves your personal privacy and security hanging in the balance." He reports that Amazon has put out a white paper that outlines the three layers of encryption and service terms that it says will safeguard that personal privacy and security, and Goodin says so far no one has found cracks. Still, he cautions there are "theoretical risks" to giving Amazon even more unfettered access to the details of our lives. "Extending the reach of all this encrypted data to the sidewalk and living rooms of neighbors requires a level of confidence that's not warranted for a technology that has never seen widespread testing."

  • USA Today shares a list of the devices that currently support Sidewalk, and CNET provides a good basic understanding of how it works, involving low-energy Bluetooth and 900MHz radio signals and with a potential range of half a mile.
  • The Verge details the simple steps you can take to opt out using the Alexa app or Ring app (if you have both, it recommends you check the settings on both).
  • As for opting out: "Do it now," advises Lucas Ropek at Gizmodo. He outlines some of Amazon's previous privacy flubs and finds little comfort in the white paper's details, which he writes "might sound impressive but, frankly, it's cold comfort when you consider that there are hackers who sit around all day and idle away the hours trying to think up sophisticated methods to exploit situations exactly like the one provided by Sidewalk."
(More Amazon stories.)

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